The tree is huge. It sits near the Capital City Freeway in West Sacramento, near Raley Field and the Sacramento River. It measures more than 20 feet around the trunk. And its branches span beyond 100 feet. Attorney Herman Franck represents a group of conservationists.
Franck: “It’s a beautiful tree that happens to be the largest butternut tree perhaps in the nation.”
But it’s smack dab on the spot where a sewer facility is planned as part of the proposed Bridge District. Mayor Christopher Cabaldon says the project has been a priority for more than two decades.
Cabaldon: “The Bridge District is planned to be the urban heart of West Sacramento – on the scale of Downtown/Midtown Sacramento blended together.”
Officials are rushing to break ground. They face a deadline for the project’s state bond funds. But conservationists have sued to keep the tree standing. Cabaldon says a delay could put the whole project at risk.
Cabaldon: “The very real fear is if we aren’t able to keep this state grant of $23 million, it could be a full generation or more before the waterfront gets redeveloped.”
Attorney Franck says his client wants to see the Bridge District move forward.
Franck: “We think it’s a great project. We are trying to protect the tree but don’t want to destroy everything else in the meantime.”
So the two sides are working on a settlement before Thursday’s court date. It would include the city planting other trees in exchange for removing this one. Groundbreaking was set for next week. Now that’s on hold – and the city won’t say for how long.