Monday, November 22, 2010
Environmental advocates are in a tricky situation near Palo Alto as a proposed high speed rail route may endanger a long-standing Redwood tree.
The dilemma is all about what environmental issue trumps in this case: save a historical tree or reduce carbon emissions through increased rail service.
Sure, that simplifies the issue to some degree but I personally know one environmentally-sensitive planner who plainly stated "Now, this is a tough one. Normally it’s not."
Towering 10 stories above the banks of San Francisquito Creek, the El Palo Alto redwood predates the U.S. Constitution by more than 800 years. It is widely believed to have been a campsite for explorer Gaspar de Portola when he discovered San Francisco Bay in 1769.
It has endured everything from ecological changes to economic shifts, all of which left marks on the ecology of this venerable tree. Now it’s entangled in the debate over high-speed rail.
The tree stands within 10 feet of existing Caltrain tracks between the Menlo Park and Palo Alto stations, with commuter trains passing by 90 times every weekday. Initial plans by the California High-Speed Rail Authority called for widening the tracks to accommodate the new rail line, which would put the tree in jeopardy. Proposed alternatives included a trench or raised track.
Chad Emerson, Faulkner U.
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