Trees targeted for removal along Highway 12 in the Springs this week have earned a temporary reprieve. After several complaints into her office, Supervisor Susan Gorin asked the County not to proceed with the tree removal until she inspects the affected area on Friday.
Removing mature trees is part of long-planned improvements in the Highway 12 corridor from Boyes Boulevard to Agua Caliente. The overall project includes new sidewalks, a bike lane, lighting and other safety enhancements.
CalTrans requires the removal of trees that are in the construction zone, according to County spokesperson Peter Rumble. “The trees are in the state’s right of way,” he said. “There is not a lot of flexibility on our part.”
While road construction is not scheduled to begin until the summer, officials say the tree removal must occur in the coming weeks in order to avoid bird-nesting season. If birds begin to nest, the project will be delayed for several months.
Though a county press release last week stated that tree removal would likely begin in the first week of February, the project was moved up to begin Monday, January 27. When ‘construction area’ signs went up along the project corridor, calls of complaint came into Gorin’s office.
In response. Gorin contacted Thomas O’Kane, the project manager for Sonoma CountyTransportation & Public Works, and requested a temporary halt until she could view the area. That walk-through is schedule for Friday, Janaury 30.
Several officials involved in the planning say any changes in the tree removal plan are unlikely, given the CalTrans mandate.
Widening the street in an area where structures are so close, along with ADA requirements, do not allow for room to save the trees, O’Kane said.
The project calls for the planting of 20 new trees in the project area, and another 50 for planting in Maxwell Park to replace those removed.
While officials say the tree removal has long been part of the well-known construction plan, some residents were caught off guard by the construction signs.
“The necessity of sidewalks in this last area of the Springs is unquestionable,” said Anna Pier. “But the aesthetic and environmental aspects are also compelling. Clearly the wholesale removal of all the big old trees along this stretch of highway disregards both.”
In an earlier statement, Gorin sais, “This project enhances the appearance of the area, addresses long needed safety concerns, and will boost the local economy. We hope to replant as many of the trees as possible.”