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Armstrong Woods at risk due to ‘lack of proper maintenance’

Friday, March 21st, 2014 | Posted by
Armstrong Redwoods  State Natural Reserve

Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve

Darrell Sukovitzen (his Russian surname refers to the point where a tree branch  and the tree connect), born and raised among the coniferous majesty of Sonoma County, has been in the tree care business for more than 35 years. He’s an arborist certified by the State of California as well as a licensed contractor .

During fire season, he works as a contracted faller for CalFire.

His years of experience with civic, arboricultural and environmental organizations, has  resulted in Sukovitzen being a much-sought-after consultant and in 2000 he was chosen as the Western Sonoma County Rural Alliance’s Environmentalist of the Year.

Says Sukovitzen, “My commitment to public education often compels me to “get involved.” For example, construction trauma became a major issue in the Russian River region several years ago when a significant number of trees suffered severe shock within 3-5 years of construction work done near them.”

In response, he put together a presentation “to educate the agencies involved in giving

Arborist Darrell Sukovitzen

Arborist Darrell Sukovitzen

permits, as well as the public in general, about  conditions that have an effect on trees.”

A presentation to the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors requested by the Sonoma County Public Works Department resulted in a county ordinance regarding construction standards.

This resulted in the adoption of a county ordinance regarding construction standards which was used by several homeowners’ associations and officials at the California Department of Parks and Recreation.

Now Sukovitzen believes Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve is “under attack once again” and in response, issued a statement on February 26 which addresses the California Department of Parks and Recreation’s solution to complyiing with ADA regulations.

Says Sukovitzen, Type 2 aggregate was placed atop every walking trail in the Grove.

“The way they chose to accomplish this in Armstrong was by placing compacted Type 2 aggregate on top of every walking trail in the grove. Redwood trees have shallow feeder roots which supply the trees with oxygen, which is a primary  life requirement.

“Because of lack of proper maintenance, Parks was faced with replacing the antiquated asbestos-lined water pipes with a 6-foot deep 8-inch water  pipe running the entire length of the grove. A 6-foot deep trench would irreparably harm the trees, severing their shallow roots. Many of the trees are over 1,000 years old.”

It was also discovered that Parks had not even planned to do Federal Endangered Species Act-mandated Northern Spotted Owl and Marbled Murrelet studies. This, after  the contract for the project had already been awarded and had to be rescinded.

Nesting Marbled Murrelet

Nesting Marbled Murrelet

Additionally, there are further serious problems which Sukovitzen feels the public should also be aware of.

Says Sukovitzen, “A new proposal calling for tunneling 30 feet under the grove the entire length of the grove now requires a full EIR, according to Patricia DuMont, Environmental Coordinator in Sacramento for State Parks. This new project is to service the entire park, not just the lower ranger residence and restrooms. Several wells have been dug and there is not enough water to supply the upper park. This is with no alternate toilet technology having been explored.

Expressing great concern about the health of an irreplaceable natural resource and the lower River’s and Guerneville’s most cherished treasure, Sukovitzen continues:

“The main point here is that State Parks is not taking care of the trees of Armstrong properly. They have put compacted material on the trails, possibly suffocating the trees’ roots. And now they propose to dig 30 feet below the forest, not knowing what they will find.”

In closing  his call to arms, Sukovitzen asks all those who wish to preserve this legacy (which is incidentally Guerneville’s number one tourist attraction) to “Please do not hesitate to voice your opposition and protest this negligent treatment of our majestic and beloved Armstrong Redwoods.”

The mitigated Negative Declaration can be viewed at the Sonoma County branch Library in Guerneville,  State Parks’ office in Duncans Mills and at parks.ca.gov.

Writer Spotlight

Stephen Gross, The River correspondent

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