Tree sitters defy bulldozers in Arcadia


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In a showdown at daybreak Wednesday, four tree sitters perched in the limbs of century-old oaks and sycamores in the foothills above Arcadia to protest plans to uproot the trees standing in the path of a spreading ground for 500,000 cubic yards of muck to be dredged from a nearby reservoir.

Tree sitter organizer John Quigley -- a veteran of arboreal acts of civil disobedience -- and three supporters were positioned on oak branches 40 feet above the ground in the grove near the corner of Santa Anita and Elkins avenues.


In a brief telephone interview at 8:45 a.m., Quigley said, ‘They have started tearing down the oaks and sycamores with bulldozers. There is a crash and crack of trees on all sides.’

The sitters entered the area at about 4 a.m.

Elsewhere, a man and three women stood shoulder to shoulder to block Los Angeles County sheriffs vehicles attempting to enter the gate at the 11-acre site belonging to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works. Contract workers driving bulldozers were scheduled to begin methodically knocking down 179 coastal oaks and 70 sycamores in the wash in the San Gabriel Mountains just below Santa Anita reservoir.

Among the protesters at the gate was David Czamanske, a member of the executive committee of the Angeles Chapter of the Sierra Club. ‘It’s our last stand,’ he said. ‘This is all about the rights of trees.’

The standoff at the gate attracted residents from the adjacent neighborhood of handsome tract homes. Among them was Doris Stone, a resident since 1972, who said she had routinely walked her dog through the grove for decades. ‘I’m in tears, it’s a little bit of heaven in there,’ she said, watching from behind a yellow law-enforcement tape used to cordon off the entrance.

Conservationists cherish the grove as a remnant patch of serenity and shelter for wildlife. County flood control authorities regard it as designated storm debris spreading grounds that just happens to have trees on it.

‘The county never engaged us in any meaningful discussions about alternatives to this destruction,’ said Cameron Stone, Doris’ son, who is an activist leading the effort to preserve the trees. ‘Now, they are getting their just deserts. The eyes of the world are on them. They are under a microscope. I hope they like it.’


Public-works officials with authority over the work were not present for comment.

[Updated, 9:31 a.m.: Work was halted at about 9:15 a.m. while sheriff’s deputies combed the area for activists, L.A. County Public Works spokesman Kerjon Lee said. No arrests had been made.]

[Updated, 10:02: @KaylaOldridge tweeted from the scene: It hurt my heart when a bulldozer mowed down one of the trees. Protesters are now on the scene, climbing in the trees.]

-- Louis Sahagun