Despite many recent appeals from Valley residents to preserve an ancient fig tree on the campus of Adele Harrison Middle School, the Sonoma Valley Unified School District had it bulldozed yesterday morning. The tree stood at the end of what will be a new artificial turf field and surrounding running track.
Very few people in the community at large, and even in the school community, were aware that the destruction of this nearly 100-year-old fig tree was part of the District’s Master Plan. A few weeks before its removal, when word got out that it would be destroyed, there was an immediate outcry. A Change.org petition set up on June 14 gathered over 400 signatures in two days. You can still sign the petition if you would like to voice your dissatisfaction with the tree’s removal. https://www.change.org/p/sonoma-valley-unified-school-district-board-of-trustees-save-the-adele-harrison-fig-tree?source_location=minibar
At both a June 6 special session on the Master Plan and the School Board meeting later that evening, many locals spoke on behalf of the tree, while many others supported the need for new playing fields. Tree supporters felt both could be accommodated by adapting the field or track, or by moving the tree during its dormancy in the fall when it has a 90% chance of surviving. A community member experienced in moving trees had stepped forward to do the job, while a donor had offered to pay the full expense.
The mature tree provided abundant figs, used by Adele’s horticulture program in recipes such as fig ice cream and jam. The tree provided food to wildlife, birds, and Sonoma families who harvested figs after hours.
According to descendants of the family that used to own the land — the Wallman-Dolcini-Matsuyama ranch — the tree was planted in 1919-1920 when an uncle returned from WWI. These descendants still live in Sonoma and joined the chorus pleading with the District to spare this iconic tree.