Eucalyptus Trees Cut Down Along South Petaluma Boulevard

Trees removed Sunday as Caltrans prepares to reconfigure interchange.

Work crews cut down an old eucalyptus grove on Petaluma Boulevard South on Sunday evening, much to the disappointment of environmentalists who told Caltrans the trees are used for nesting for egrets and herons and had asked for alternatives.

Caltrans is set to begin work on an interchange project in the area and said that removing the 15 or so trees was needed so that construction was not delayed. Egrets and heron are federally protected, meaning that the trees could not be cut down once the birds started nesting there later this spring.

The trees are located on the parcel owned by Dutra Materials, which wants to build an asphalt plant there.

“Tonight, under the cover of Sunday night darkness, Ghilotti Construction, Caltrans and a tree crew are chain sawing the grove of the heron and egret rookery,” wrote David Keller, a local environmental activist and Sonoma Country Conservation Action board member in an email to supporters.

“It’s disturbing that Caltrans' contractor for the Petaluma Boulevard South interchange would take the added safety risk of dropping these large trees at night.  Were they afraid of having the community's presence and witness of this destruction?”

Caltrans representative Robert Haus has said that the agency reviewed various designs and the one selected was deemed environmentally superior. A worker on the site reportedly told a resident that Ghilotti regularly works “after hours.”

According to Bob Dyer, a senior docent for the Petaluma Wetlands Alliance, more than 400 birds have hatched in the eucalyptus trees, visible as drivers exit Highway 101 at Petaluma Boulevard South. Many birders at Shollenberger Park, across the Petaluma River, also enjoyed seeing the birds.

The Alliance, along with the Madrone Audubon Society, have urged Caltrans to plant native trees nearby, such as cottonwoods, but say Caltrans won’t commit to a landscaping plan until all of the construction is done.

“We are very disappointed that this remarkable natural attraction has been lost to poor planning and errant decision making,” Keller said. “What Dutra could not have done for their project, Caltrans has done with impunity under the cover of darkness.”

Olivia January 14, 2013 at 05:26 PM
Alex M January 14, 2013 at 05:44 PM
BS. Down with Dutra!
Susan Kirks January 14, 2013 at 07:33 PM
I suggest to all who care about the beautiful great egrets, snowy egrets and great blue herons who nested in these trees and raised their chicks - to go by the site and witness the destruction of the grove. To have a presence there, if only for a few moments, to honor the mystery of nature - that the birds selected this site as appropriate for their nesting activity - and that is has been taken down to accommodate a suboptimal interchange design for the Hwy 101 widening project. Give the presence and feeling of heartbreak as a witness a reality by visiting and observing. This is my suggestion to honor the natural process that has been destroyed.
David Keller January 14, 2013 at 08:50 PM
Another thing that folks can do is to ask our City Council to actively and aggressively pursue funding from CalTrans to get new plantings underway now. We believe there may well be a site or two within Shollenberger Park for planting a new grove(s) of cottonwood trees that the birds might come to like as a new roosting site. However, that will take years to grow to requisite height, so the earlier we can start, the sooner the birds will have a chance to use them. Such a location, while at least 300' from pathways, could become a rookery that is easily viewed by visitors again. CalTrans hasn't budged with providing any funds for tree replacements, and so far won't even consider it for another 3-4 years. We need our city to join the effort to get this done now.
Sheri Cardo January 14, 2013 at 10:38 PM
Who cuts down trees IN THE DARK?! If this was so necessary, why hide it? I am thoroughly disgusted at this action and at Caltrans inability to come up with a solution that saved these trees and the rookery. Sneaking around under cover of darkness is just bizarre.
John Parnell January 15, 2013 at 12:58 AM
Alex - The previous article on these trees made it pretty clear that Dutra had absolutely nothing to do with this. This was all Caltrans, so you might want to blame them. Blaming Dutra is kind of like blaming a homeowner for PG&E's tree-trimming close to power lines.
Steve Krautheim January 15, 2013 at 03:14 PM
Now what are the Red Tail Hawks going to eat? Get real people, what did birds do when they built your dwelling? They adapted which is more than I can say about you.
Susan Kirks January 15, 2013 at 04:18 PM
Conservationists with many years of experience who post comments about this article, thank you. And, Petaulma Patch, thank you for publishing this article. Expected are the quips and uninformed types of sarcastic remarks. These come from value systems that support imposition, looking the other way, disconnectedness, and excuses rather than observing the whole truth and acting to protect and preserve natural resources. We must help our young people understand what it means to destroy an area selected by healthy wildlife to nest and raise their young and the impacts and implications of such actions. And also help educate about decision making and balance in projects needed to help humans. I encourage readers to go and visit the site at Petaluma Boulevard South and look at what has been done there. And think about what has been lost as a result of the process that did not include or understand consideration for the same. This gateway to Sonoma County and Petaluma, this site witnessed by hundreds of schoolchildren and visitors to Shollenberger Park and Petaluma, this gentle, natural phenomenon that was part of the Heron and Egret Project of Audubon Canyon Ranch and a natural wonder each year to observe and enjoy.
Dave Seter January 15, 2013 at 05:19 PM
What have we learned in nearly 200 years? This excerpt is from John Clare's poem The Fallen Elm (1835): ...Thou'st sheltered hypocrites in many a shower That when in power would never shelter thee; ...With axe at root he felled thee to the ground And barked of freedom. ...The common heath--became the spoiler's prey: The rabbit had not where to make his den... No matter--wrong was right and right was wrong And freedom's bawl was sanction to the song. ...And there are knaves who brawl for better laws And cant of tyranny in stronger powers, Who glut their vile unsatiated maws And freedom's birthright from the weak devours.
mikeg55 January 15, 2013 at 08:32 PM
Are we allowed to hunt the egrets and herons now? Sounds tasty!
Devin January 15, 2013 at 08:39 PM
This is so sad. Perfect word for the whole situation. Cowardly. Beautiful, old trees that were apart of nature's cycle. For an asphalt plant. Ugh.
Devin January 15, 2013 at 08:53 PM
Every time I look at someone's profile after they leave a sarcastic comment, I immediately take notice that everything else they have commented on is garbage. It has literally happened every time. So don't feel bad. These people obviously have an account just to rile people up, and to try and get other people down with their bad moods, and negative outlook on life.
Paul Werbaneth January 15, 2013 at 10:11 PM
I went out to the rookery site just after lunch today and took a few photos of the destruction, which I've posted on the Patch. What surprised me most was how far some of those felled trees were from the 101 frontage road - I would say 100 yards or so from the pavement to the tree stumps. Seems like a stretch to say these trees needed to go for the 101 interchange work, but it's a peanut butter plug-in to see how beneficial removing these trees is now to Dutra, should their proposed asphalt plant move forward. Draw your own conclusions.
John Parnell January 18, 2013 at 01:21 AM
Susan - I don't know if you meant me, but I'm not making any excuses or condoning what happened - I was just clarifying the fact of who cut down the trees. I know Dutra isn't too popular, but it doesn't really sound like they had anything to do with it. I absolutely love egrets & herons; which is one reason I live where I can see them everyday from my house (and not in the Russia/Palin way). Some environmentalists want the trees for the birds, and some hate eucalyptus trees, because they're non-native & have such shallow root systems that they fall when they get too tall. Perhaps Caltrans, Dutra & Petaluma could work together to replace the trees ASAP with better ones. I've heard willows are great at filtering waste near rivers, and they put up a good cover. Maybe willows could work, or maybe people who know more could volunteer their knowledge.
Susan Kirks January 18, 2013 at 04:56 PM
Paul, I'm grateful you went to photo document the loss of the grove. When birds such as egrets and herons select sites to nest and raise young - this is part of the mystery of Nature that can never be replaced by humans. The nesting process, the birds, the hundreds of chicks fledged, and the hundreds of hours devoted by volunteer docents to monitor and record the activity are all part of a gentle observatory life process - something very beneficial to share with young people in an educational process. This Colony was also connected to the larger Heron and Egret Prjoect of Audubon Canyon Ranch. The site, at the gateway to Petaluma and in close proximity to Shollenberger Park, Alman Marsh and the sensitive Petaluma Wetlands, has been destroyed. For a frontage road and an interchange design that could have been modified further to be better for Petaluma. In the initial environmental review process, CalTrans had not even included the grove and nesting site in the review process and this had to be communicated to them by members of the public. The grove could have remained, had effective decision making and design processes and respect for what was to be lost been considered.
Cindy Thomas January 18, 2013 at 08:52 PM
The removal of the trees has saddened me almost as much as the "mysterious" burning of the house at Haystack Landing did. http://www.sacredsonoma.com/haystacklanding.html I can't be the only one that has a memory for "mysterious" events in Petaluma, can I? History keeps repeating itself on this piece of Dutra property, a common occurance on develpment intended sites. Like Paul said, draw your own conclusions.
Active Thinker March 27, 2013 at 06:11 PM
More trees were just cut down on the Petaluma Blvd South exit...such a shame on the city for letting this happen. The drive through Petaluma used be nice...now no trees and K-Mart, Target, and an auto-row with bright lights on all night....big bummer.
Joe April 22, 2013 at 05:35 AM
Democrats run this, just out for a fast buck, they couldn't care less about wildlife.
Joe April 22, 2013 at 05:40 AM
Democrats pretend to be environmentally friendly but they are not, whole state ran by socialists (in Dem clothing) and worldwide they are known not to be the environments friend.


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