The Petaluma Wetlands Alliance and other community groups are upset over a plan to remove a eucalyptus grove as Caltrans prepares to build a new interchange at Petaluma Boulevard South.
The 15 or so eucalyptus trees across the river from Shollenberger Park are home to herons and egrets, who nest there for most of the year. Local birding enthusiasts love observing them as do countless visitors to the park.
The trees are located on the parcel owned by Dutra Materials and are not in the way of the planned improvements, which include re-alignment and widening of Petaluma Boulevard South, a new overcrossing and four traffic signals for drivers heading out of town.
But because the nesting birds are federally protected, Caltrans could be forced to stop work if birds are found in the trees during nesting season, which runs February 15 through October.
“Caltrans views eucalyptus as an invasive weed, which is true, but in this case the trees are also an established rookery,” said David Keller, a member of Sonoma County Conservation Action and a former City Councilmember.
“We have been working for three years to get Caltrans to consider a number of alternatives from an aesthetic and engineering perspective and they have essentially told us to buzz off.”
A call and email to Caltrans were not immediately returned.
According to Bob Dyer, a senior docent for the Petaluma Wetlands Alliance, more than 400 birds have hatched from the so-called Shollenberger Colony. The PWA and Madrone Audobon Society have urged Caltrans to plant native trees, such as cottonwoods, but say Caltrans won’t commit to a landscaping plan until all of the construction is done.
Read Dyer’s recent letter to the editor here
Environmental groups have also met with the city to discuss a plan to plant new native trees at Shollenberger Park, although it will take years before the trees would be mature enough for nesting.
The trees are planned for removal sometime before February 15, the official start of egret and heron nesting season.
What do you think about Caltrans' plan to remove a grove of eucalyptus trees from Petaluma Boulevard South?