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SMART halts plans to chop rare tree

A rare chimeric coast redwood in Cotati will be spared the ax, at least for now, after Sonoma-Marin rail officials bowed to public opposition Thursday and suspended the planned removal of the tree to make way for train tracks.

Tom Stapleton, a former Sonoma County arborist who now works in Amador County, raised concerns about the loss of the unusual tree — which could be one of only a handful of coast redwoods known to be in existence that exhibit both albino and normal foliage on the same branches.

SMART had scheduled the tree for removal, possibly within the month, saying its location violates Federal Railroad Administration regulations governing the safe operation of its planned commuter train.

Cotati's Chimeric Coast Redwood Tree

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Stapleton's concerns, outlined Wednesday in a Press Democrat story, went national — drawing calls from news media across the country, along with offers to help from other arborists and ordinary tree lovers.

Supporters of the effort also started a Cotati Redwood Facebook page.

On Thursday afternoon, Farhad Mansourian, SMART's general manager, said he had suspended the removal plans.

"I wanted to pause and make sure we do the right thing for the community and the environment," Mansourian said. "We are a big part of the community and we have extreme care with our environment, and we want to make sure we do the right thing.

"Everything comes to a halt with this tree removal until we bring in additional experts."

People behind the effort to save the tree welcomed the move.

"Hurray! That's the first step. That's fantastic," said Cotati historian Prue Draper. She and others recently raised the alarm that SMART's initial decision two years ago to leave the tree had changed with the addition of a second, side track at the Cotati station.


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