Picnic area in Santa Rosa’s Spring Lake park to be demolished months after tree limb mishap

Two months after a large branch fell, crushing one of the picnic tables and injuring six people, the popular Santa Rosa picnic spot where he incident occurred is now being demolished.|

Ground squirrels scurried around the Oak Knolls Picnic Area in Santa Rosa’s Spring Lake Regional Park on Sunday morning as an excavator got to work removing chunks of concrete.

The park’s Upper Shady Oaks Picnic Area will no longer be a gathering spot for those looking to enjoy a meal outside amid the numerous trees that are there, said Meda Freeman, spokesperson for Sonoma County Regional Parks.

Two months after a large branch fell, crushing one of the picnic tables and injuring six people seated there — including a woman who was sent to a trauma center and a 6-year-old boy — the popular Santa Rosa picnic spot where the incident occurred is now being demolished.

“As a precaution, we’ve removed the picnic tables and barbecue from that area and plan to reinstall them in a new location,” Freeman said Sunday.

The cause of the fallen limb that measured 15 inches in diameter — the size of a small tree, itself — has been attributed to the previous drought combined with this past winter’s extreme rains.

The years without moisture and the high winds of the atmospheric rivers that struck this region back in January caused the limb to weaken and eventually to break, according to parks officials.

Regional parks officials are still considering where to relocate the picnic tables, but they’ll likely put them in a nearby area known as Lower Oak Knolls, according to Freeman.

Several other picnic tables in the Upper Oak Knolls Picnic Area have been caution-taped off and will also be relocated, she added.

The move comes after an arborist assessed the grove and recommended removing or cutting back some trees or relocating the picnic area.

Many of the older trees, according to the assessment, have been weakened by years of drought followed by the rain-heavy winter.

On Sunday, two Santa Rosa women, Dia Jenkins, 57, and Dawn Carter, 52, who’ve been meeting for runs and walks at Spring Lake for the past 20 years, said they were overall relieved the picnic tables were being relocated to provide a safer experience for park-goers.

“I hope it’s actually a result of really looking at the trees and assessing their health because these trees are old and stuff happens,” Jenkins said. “I mean, you see evidence of it all up through the park — branches will fall all over the place.”

Carter said it makes sense to remove the tables as a safety precaution, and she believes people will still get some use out of the surrounding area.

“It’s not as shady, but you have to kind of weigh the dangers with the reality of people wanting shade and the fact that the trees are old and they will fall,” said Jenkins.

You can reach Staff Writer Alana Minkler at 707-526-8531 or alana.minkler@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @alana_minkler.

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