Tree lovers working to save a rare coast redwood from the ax have found a new home for it in Cotati and are taking bids for the cost of moving the 52-foot green-and-white specimen away from SMART train tracks.
Several people plan to speak today at SMART's board meeting in Petaluma to seek a commitment to save the tree and to further highlight the unusual specimen's value.
Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit officials had marked the dual-color chimera tree for removal because a second passing track is planned to go in next to the existing tracks, which they say would result in the tree being a safety hazard.
But since word got out about the decision to remove the redwood, local tree lovers and arborists who study unusual albino, chlorophyll-deficient or dual-color chimeric redwoods have pushed back. SMART said last week it was suspending the decision pending further analysis.
Tom Stapleton, a former Sonoma County arborist who now lives in Amador County, has rallied other tree lovers and scientists to his cause.
Cotati officials said this week that the tree could be transplanted to Helen Putnam Park, about a mile and a half from its current location next to the railroad tracks on East Cotati Avenue. The park is home to ballfields and other trees, including other redwoods.
Stapleton said the arborist's report SMART relied on to determine the tree should be removed is flawed and uses incorrect information as a basis for its conclusion that the tree isn't especially rare.
It cites a different subset of redwood to draw its conclusion, incorrectly states that a version of it is available in nurseries and refers to Rohnert Park's tree ordinance instead of Cotati's, he said.
The report SMART used acknowledged the tree is unusual, but said if the tracks cannot be moved, the tree should be cut down and seeds or cuttings collected.
Another report from a second arborist who said he was asked by SMART's contractor to prepare a report differs sharply in its tone. His report doesn't discuss removal, only ways to preserve the tree.
SMART said only one report was produced for its analysis of the tree.
Stapleton said he wants to make sure SMART board members understand how rare the Cotati tree is and get a commitment that they will hold off on cutting it down until a transplanting plan comes together.
"They knew this tree is extremely unique, but it would take money to relocate it," Stapleton said. "But it costs a lot of money to relocate tracks. So I think they just went full-steam ahead to take it out."
SMART has expressed doubts that the tree could be transplanted successfully. Its plan is to plant 20 coast redwoods to replace the loss of this one and try to take cuttings, which it would give to a private nursery to sell if they propagate successfully.
Cotati City Council members said they would be happy to have the tree in Putnam Park on Myrtle Avenue.
"There are other trees down there and water because of the park," said Councilwoman Susan Harvey. "Because of the park, people will be able to come look at it, too. It's become quite a site. I had a call today that there was something like 11 people around the tree, taking pictures."