Cottage Row loses its redwoods

Five redwoods were cut in the mini-park at Cottage Row.

Five redwoods were cut in the mini-park at Cottage Row.

THERE HAD BEEN TALK for years about cutting down the rapidly growing redwood trees in the park along Cottage Row. Suddenly one day in mid-February the five redwoods were felled, along with a massive eucalyptus tree and other smaller trees.

The howls of outrage among many neighbors now seem to be giving way to acceptance.

“I was opposed to cutting the trees when they could have been trimmed,” said Cottage Row resident Jeff Staben. “But now that you see the light and openness, it’s nice. If only people would stop using the park as a dog potty.”

cottage rowA crew from the city’s Department of Recreation and Parks has removed the trees and the redwood stumps and begun to refurbish the mini-park, which serves as a front yard for the historic Cottage Row homes. New Japanese maple trees — and perhaps cherry trees and magnolias — will be planted in a nod to the heritage of the row before its Japanese-American residents were ousted and interned during World War II. A few redwoods remain on private property.

“We’re stabilizing the park and updating the landscaping,” said Steve Cismowski, the manager from Rec & Park responsible for Cottage Row. “Those redwoods were always the wrong species for a park this size. We caught it just in the nick of time.”

He said the interim plan — what he called “shoestring and duct tape landscaping” — will make the park safer and more usable. “But it isn’t intended to be the end of the conversation — just the beginning,” he said.

Cismowski and his crew expect to work in the park every Monday for the next six weeks, completing their limited work by mid-May. They are widening the planters where the redwoods stood, building new steps and adding Japonesque touches. The eucalyptus stump — too big to grind out — will remain.

While Cottage Row has lost its redwoods, it has gained its own song — a lyrical melody by singer-songwriter Eve Fleishman, who lives nearby.

“Twice a week I could sing to the five small redwood trees that inspired the bridge lyrics of my song, City Light,” she said. “I felt like crying when I saw they were gone. Not much to sing about on Cottage Row right now.”

  • Audrey Sherlock

    I don’t know who wrote this story, but the word “suddenly” is inappropriate in describing the tree removal project.

    It sounds like Rec & Park swooped in one night and felled the trees. Nothing could be further from the truth. The formal process took over two years and consisted of many neighborhood meetings, coordination with R&P and a public hearing at City Hall. Finally the trees were posted and remained so long after the required term, followed by a formal letter to residents within the prescribed area inviting them to a formal meeting at Hamilton Field. About 10 to 15 people showed up. There was nothing “sudden” in the removal of the trees.

    I never heard of Eve Fleishman, but her comment that there is “not much to sing about on Cottage Row right now” is bs. I’ve lived on Cottage Row for over 25 years and there hasn’t been much to sing about on Cottage Row the past 10-plus years due to the invasive redwood trees — but there sure is now. I’m not a spokesperson for Cottage Row and neither is Ms. Fleishman, a non-resident.