Hearing held for rare tree blocking SMART Train plans

Arborists, historians, and residents are banding together to save a rare tree in Cotati that?s in the way of a new transit system.
March 19, 2014 5:23:32 PM PDT
Arborists, historians, and residents are banding together to save a redwood in the North Bay that was little noticed until it was announced the tree would be chopped down to make way for a new transit system.

It's the redwood tree that cannot speak for itself, that on Wednesday got a bit of a hearing.

"When you build a train you're gonna have to take out trees," said SMART Board Director Shirlee Zane. "That is part of the reality."

And it's been a fight ever since Cotati discovered that this isn't just any tree, but a chimeric albino redwood with two subspecies coexisting as one. They manifest by growing multi-colored branches

And this tree grows where the Marin-Sonoma SMART trains will soon run.

"They don't understand how rare this tree is," arborist Tom Stapelton said. "There's only ten of them that exists. It's the largest one. It's the tallest one."

Also the most controversial, now that the SMART Train board of directors heard public comment on Wednesday.

"This is a community issue," said SMART General Manager Farhad Mansourian. "We're part of the community so if it is important to them, it is important to us."

Well, most people there, anyway.

"I can see that it's rare but I can see no intrinsic value in the tree," Greg Karraker said. "It seems to be the equivalent of an unhealthy human being."

The board does have options; it has postponed cutting the tree to take time for further study. It wants to take cuttings and try to regenerate them elsewhere. And the board has begun taking bids to move the tree to a local park.

"If I have any choice we prefer to not cut it," Mansourian said. "But it has to also be practical and it has to make sense."

"I say it should be tried," historian Pru Draper said. "All you can do is try. You can't just give up on the poor old thing. It's been there for 60 plus years."