Caltrans asks Petaluma residents to stop feeding birds along 101



Caltrans has asked residents of a mobile home park at the north end of Petaluma to stop feeding the birds so a large stand of trees along Highway 101 can be cut down for the highway widening project.

The birds are nesting in some of the 174 mature redwood and eucalyptus trees that line the edge of the Leisure Lake Mobile Home Park, where some residents enjoy feeding hummingbirds and goldfinches.

Caltrans plans to cut down all but about 35 of the trees, which are protected by the federal Migratory Birds Act while birds are nesting, said John Maitland, a deputy director at the Sonoma County Transportation Authority.

Residents, who want a sound wall along their park, initially thought Caltrans was going to scuttle the project unless they stopped feeding the birds, resident Gretchen Paradis said.

But during a meeting last week, Caltrans and construction representatives said the sound wall is still planned. However, it may be delayed if birds continue to make their homes there due to the plentiful food supplied by residents.

Caltrans plans to build a 14- to 16-foot tall, 1,100-foot long sound wall between the park and Highway 101.

The Petaluma sound wall segment is in the middle of three phases of construction from Rohnert Park to Petaluma. The partially funded segment includes new carpool lanes, ramp improvements and rehabilitation of the road from Old Redwood Highway to Pepper Road.

Phase A is in the midst of work now, which includes sound walls in Cotati along with the new carpool lanes. Construction is expected to be done by 2012.

Phase C will construct a new interchange at Old Redwood Highway/Petaluma Boulevard North, including a replacement of the highway overcrossing. This phase, which is fully funded, is expected to start construction in late 2011.

Paradis said park residents hope to begin feeding the birds, especially the colorful goldfinches, again after the tree work is finished.

— Lori A. Carter, The Press Democrat