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Iconic Petaluma redwood slated for removal

  • One of three iconic redwood trees on a patch of land along Petaluma Boulevard will be removed. The afflicted tree is on the right. (BETH SCHLANKER / PD, 2012)

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.”

He said soil samples were “quite the opposite in terms of nutritional value” than what redwoods generally thrive in.

The tree committee agreed the tree has to go, Scaccalosi said, and will discuss options at its meeting today. The other two trees seem to be doing well after soil enhancements.

The committee also will discuss options for a $30,000 donation to a city tree-planting fund from the developers of Deer Creek Village shopping center. Merlone Geier Partners agreed to give to the fund in a settlement with a group opposing their development.

It hasn't been determined if any of the sick tree can be repurposed.

“Perhaps the wood can be milled into redwood slabs and salvaged for items of interest such as benches, tables etc.,” Schneider, the arborist, suggested.

The tree committee meets today at 3:30 p.m. in conference room 2 at City Hall.

You can reach Staff Writer Lori A. Carter at 762-7297 or lori.carter@pressdemocrat.com.

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