High hopes for the survival of one of three iconic redwood trees in the center of Petaluma have been dashed by an arborist, who recommends the eight-decades-old tree be removed as soon as possible.
"The tree is coming out," said Rod Scaccalosi, chairman of the city's tree advisory committee, which has been exploring options for the tree for more than a year.
"It's reached a point beyond where it's safe," he said. "The insides are all rotted out."
The tree, about 60 feet tall, is the northernmost of three coastal redwoods planted at least 85 years ago in the city's tiny Center Park along Petaluma Boulevard North.
The narrow strip of land separates the boulevard from parking spaces in front of McNear's Mystic Theatre and other businesses. It's often used as a meeting spot or a focal point of welcome greenery in an otherwise concrete jungle.
For the past 28 years, the trees have served as community symbols of lost loved ones during the annual Hospice of Petaluma's "Light Up a Life" tree-lighting ceremony.
All three redwoods have been watched closely over the past several years as their declining health became apparent and they turned increasingly scraggly.
The city put in a misting system to simulate the coastal fog they thrive on, the hard-packed dirt surrounding them was replaced with mulch and healthy microbes were injected underground to feed the roots.
But one tree hasn't responded.
"I am afraid my optimism for the retention of the northwest tree has changed," said a report by arborist Joseph Schneider of Pacific Tree Care of Calistoga. "I must recommend removal of this tree as soon as possible. I feel it could fail at ground level at any time resulting in severe damage to anything within its drop zone."