Redwoods and Ravens :100-Year Redding Residents Saved by Citizens

On March 29, 2011, between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., almost 100 local passersby signed a petition stating they wanted to save the six 100- year-old redwood and sequoia trees located at the corner of Oregon and Yuba streets in downtown Redding.

This action, by admitted Tree Huggers, began a six-year effort to make sure that the proposed Shasta County Court House architectural plans would retain these majestic trees that are home to countless species. This urban forest has been present since the early part of the 20th Century when the Dobrowsky family, local jewelers, lived in the Craftsman-styled house.

This family, who came to Redding and subsequently set up a successful business on Market Street, likely had no idea that the trees they planted would be in jeopardy 100 years hence. I, too, never thought I would be in the middle of a Save The Trees campaign, although I suspect my interest stems from my late Uncle Theodore’s article in the Napa Register in which he spoke of setting out to plant redwood trees throughout the Napa area in the early 1900s. Also, family photos show we are related to John Muir, who married into the family in the 1800s. So maybe it’s in my DNA to cherish trees.

Jumping forward to the 21st Century, and thanks to some sleuth work, I was able to see the architectural plans for the proposed new courthouse from the firm in Seattle. I noticed that the trees were not sketched into the architectural plan rendering.

Thus began my phone calls and emails to long=time local friends and key players who I knew would be ready to go as far as chain themselves to these 60-foot-tall living monuments that help make Redding a Tree City USA. On a daily basis, many people drive or walk by the trees on their way to the post office and area businesses and cannot help but be blindsided by these stately trees. Most of us simply don’t look up on our hurried way around town. We assume these trees are part of the landscape, and have always been there, and will always be there.

But, when it became known that these particular trees were in jeopardy, along with the Dobrowsky house, the rallying cry of tree-loving citizens began.

After Shasta County and the city of Redding sold the land to the State of California, a representative from the California Division of Judicial Council came to Redding to outline the new court house plans and receive public input. The meeting was held at Redding City Council chambers, attended by approximately 100 persons who came to hear the courthouse project manager explain how the plans would effect the house and the trees. There was much discussion and interest in saving the Dobrowsky house and its trees, and incorporating them into the court house plans.

After the presentation the representative was presented with petitions that contained several hundred names that asked that the trees be saved. The representative was, at that time, non-committal on this request. However, over the next several years, the project manager changed hands, and many phone calls and emails were exchanged between the next court house project manager, Ms. Peggy Symons of the Judicial Council in Sacramento.

Sometimes it seemed progress was being made, and then the conversation would get nowhere. Then, on one particular call, Ms. Symons said she agreed that five of the six trees would be saved.

I said, “Thank you, but all six have to be saved. They are an Urban Forest family, they produce a great amount of oxygen, they are the home of many birds, insects and small animals. And most uniquely, in the fall, the Ravens of Redding return and sit on the very top branches and peer throughout the city. This grove of trees are part of Redding’s heritage.”

As you drive by that corner of Oregon and Yuba streets today, you’ll see that Dobrowsky house was unfortunately unable to be saved, but the construction crew, under the orders of Ms. Symon, have left the trees intact. Crews will replace the earth around them so the root system will absorb moisture. And hopefully, the architect has included a park-like setting for court house employees and all of us who like a shady respite now and then, under a 100-year-old canopy.

It should bode well when Redding applies for Tree City USA in following years, that its 100-year=old trees will continue for many years to come for the citizens of Redding.

Frank Treadway has been a resident of Redding and Anderson since 1945. Involved in many community activities for the last 55 years, he holds an AA from Shasta College, a BA from the California State University, Chico, and an MS from the University of La Verne.

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