WILLITS, CA, 1/13/18 — CalTrans is slated to remove thirteen trees from a stretch of Main Street in Willits next Sunday, as part of the “Willits Relinquishment Project,” which will return control of Main Street from CalTrans to the City of Willits, for the first time in generations.
Prior to the completion of the bypass Willits’ Main St. was considered part of US Route 101, and as such owned and maintained by the California Department of Transportation (CalTrans). However, with the bypass in place, CalTrans is returning the road to the City, but not before making improvements and upgrades.
A similar tree removal by caused in uproar in the spring, after CalTrans cut down several historic cork trees located in front of Willits High School and the Veterans Hall on Willits’ Main Street in June, 2017, while replacing the sidewalk in that area. Local residents filled a city council meeting to complain that the trees had not been preserved, demanding that future plans to enhance the Main Street corridor in Willits preserving native species on the route. Residents later held a funereal ceremony mourning the trees that CalTrans had removed.
CalTrans seems to have taken a more collaborative approach this time around, and states that they have conferred with the City as well as a local nursery owner in selecting the trees that will be removed.
The tree removals will begin Sunday January 21 and be completed Sunday the 28. The work has been scheduled to occur in the winter to minimize potential disruptions to nesting birds during the spring.
In a press release CalTrans notes that “a local nursery owner served on the tree identification team,” and that the trees selected for removal “were those with structure or health problems sufficient to warrant removal with or without the relinquishment project.”
Phase One of the Willits Relinquishment project is expected to be completed in December, 2019.
Here’s the full press release from Caltrans about this upcoming tree removal:
“The first phase of the Willits Relinquishment project will launch on Sunday, January 21st. Thirteen trees will be removed on Main Street in advance of the sidewalk replacement project to begin late spring 2018. The tree work is being scheduled in advance of the bird nesting season as to not disrupt wildlife. The trees will be removed over two days with work taking place on two consecutive Sundays, January 21 and 28 to minimize disruption to businesses and motorists. Residents will notice tree stumps remaining for a period of time until the actual work on the sidewalk begins.
Caltrans worked collaboratively with the City of Willits in identifying the trees to be removed in advance of the sidewalk and utility phase of the project. Additionally a local nursery owner served on the tree identification team. The trees that were identified were those with structure or health problems sufficient to warrant removal with or without the relinquishment project.
Dusty Duley, Community Development Director for the City, said, “The removal of the trees is the initiation of the relinquishment project. We are working with Caltrans to ensure construction will assist in the implementation of the Willits Downtown Main Street program that the local residents and businesses worked so hard on to adopt”.
The Willits Rehabilitation and Relinquishment of Old Highway 101 project will bring the road into good repair and then turn it over the City of Willits and the County of Mendocino. Phase one work includes upgrading sidewalks and curbs to current accessibility standards, upgrades to existing drainage facilities, slurry seal, and restriping. Phase two includes grinding, paving and restriping the roadway.
Construction for Phase 1 is expected to begin in May of 2018 and will be completed by December of 2019. The schedule for Phase 2 is expected to begin in May of 2020 and end in July of 2020.
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