Residents of a southern Novato community were a bit surprised Thursday to hear the sounds of chainsaws and watch some fairly large trees come crashing down.
Workers associated with the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit system, which is preparing Novato's railroad tracks for a commuter rail system, cut down eight trees over the course of Thursday and Friday. The trees bordered the Los Robles Mobile Home Park in an area just off Highway 101 between Hamilton and Bel Marin Keys.
SMART spokesman Matt Stevens said the trees were on SMART-owned right-of-way and needed to be cleared out as construction crews prepare to upgrade the tracks for the rail system. The trees were just behind a branch of Wells Fargo Bank
"We are studying ways to mitigate the loss of screening, and we hope next week to have an answer to that," Stevens said.
Stevens said there is a chance more trees might have to come down, but crews would study the situation before firing up the chainsaws again.
"Our construction people are pretty sensitive about only taking trees that need to be taken out," Stevens said. "We're trying to be good neighbors."
Los Robles residents put up a fight when SMART wanted to place a southern Novato station right next to the mobile home park's entrance a few years ago. SMART yielded and picked a different location about a half mile south. Construction has not started at that station or one scheduled to be built off North Redwood Boulevard near Atherton Avenue.
SMART says trains will run between San Rafael and Santa Rosa by 2016. The transit line is primarily funded by tax dollars from Marin and Sonoma county residents as well as government agency grants.