Charting Sonoma’s future

Whether you’re participating in it or not, there appears to be a conversation taking place about how to best chart the course for Sonoma’s future.

Tourism, tasting rooms and hotels are part of the conversation equation, and so, perhaps, will be trees, especially if the county proceeds as expected with the elimination of numerous oaks along Highway 12 in the Springs. The elimination (some have referred to it as “destruction”) is part of the preparation for the sidewalk improvements along the northern half of the highway.

While removal of some of those trees is no doubt necessary, we think it would have been both thoughtful and wise to invite public response to the tree-cutting plan before it was implemented. At least two substantial oak trees were saved during the first phase of the project along the southern reach of Highway 12 in the Springs, where the new sidewalk was routed around them. County officials report that 31 trees of 6-inch diameter or larger were to be taken out, beginning yesterday (Monday), including 20 oaks and a 72-inch eucalyptus. Some of the oaks are substantial, including two hard up against the wall surrounding the Charter School. We find it a little hard to believe that some accommodation couldn’t be made for some of the condemned trees, now easily identified by the prominent display of a large red letter “X” on each trunk.

Were the tree removal occurring inside Sonoma city limits, there would almost certainly have been a prominent public review and probably some heated objections. We know the arboreal loss will be mitigated with oak plantings in Maxwell Farms Regional Park, but that can’t compensate for the aesthetic and emotional impact of lost trees. We think the county could have done better.

Oak eliminations aside, we’re glad to see swelling interest in the future use of the Sonoma Truck and Auto property on Broadway, a gateway site that could add a whole new dimension to both the cultural and commercial identity of downtown, if enough development creativity can be applied to the site.

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