Tree sitter people
Santa Clarita, California
For http://www.Tree-Sit.ORG/
Fredric L. Rice, 25/Dec/02

It's Saturnalia, Winter Solstice, and -- more recently -- Christmas! And John Quigley is still treed, resting comfortably enough high above the muddy devastation of the highway construction project that threatens his tree. Yours truly wondered what kind of a Christmas John might be having so I and my sons packed up the Jeep with various supplies and headed for Santa Clarita, Pico Canyon Road, and Old Glory, the name of the oak tree that John and his friends are trying to protect from destruction to make way for the highway.

It was easy enough to find: Head North on Interstate 5 and take the McBean off ramp heading left toward the West. McBean will turn into Stevenson Ranch Parkway and after about a mile or so the road curves around to the right into the construction zone and on to Pico Canyon Road. The fenced in area surrounding a lone tree sitting in the middle of a muddy, ugly highway project is easy to spot and, this early morning, there were three cars sitting along the highway up against a curb where it's safe for automotive people to become temporary pedestrian people to visit Old Glory and to ponder its fate.

Upon arriving, I and my sons took 51 photographs with a digital camera, most of which will eventually be available on one of my web sites at:


-- hopefully posted some time within the next week (after I fix my computer's USB ports so they will recognize my digital cameras.) We took photographs of the entire area, trying to avoid taking photographs of people since that's not nice (I did get a photograph of a gas guzzling hog of a car that drove up into the expensive housing construction taking place, though.)

We got photographs of the existing road, the muddy destruction, and the sheer cliff wall behind the oak tree to get a good photographic perspective of the problem that John Quigley and fellow supporters of saving this old tree are facing.

See, the cheapest way to widen the two-lane highway into a four-lane highway -- presumably to support the new housing and the expected growth of humans in the area -- is to add two lanes to the existing lanes (obviously, yep.) To the left of Old Glory are fairly new expensive houses that could be wiped out to widen the road to the left. To the right of Old Glory is an expensive drainage system and then a rocky sheer cliff covered in netting that could be blasted, gouged, and pushed further back to the right than it already is.

The only other cheaper alternative is to split the road into two lanes on the left, two on the right, and have the old oak tree rest safely in the middle -- which would be the cheapest solution that saves the tree. That solution was rejected with the claim that doing so would reduce driving safety on the highway, something that I don't believe for an instant. Splitting the highway would not cause any additional safety hazards because trees along highways fall across them often enough and tree limbs end up on highways all the time.

The reason the solution was rejected, I suspect, was because it costs more than cutting up Old Glory and putting the lanes straight through. And, of course, the City liability in the event this old tree does cause damage to any vehicle on the highway over the years would disappear were the project to run right over where Old Glory used to stand.

My sons and I had brought some money to support the effort -- help pay for cell telephone calls to and from reporters, supporters, friends and family -- so when John called down a "Merry Christmas" to us, I called up asking how I might get something to him and whether there was anything he needed by way of supplies. I had brought camping gear and warm clothes on the chance that the rains we had run through here got to him, but it looked to me that enough camping equipment and some support materials were already present and he had a meager ground support crew, none of which were present at the time.

John suggested that breakfast and newspapers would be appreciated so I left one of sons behind and the rest of us went to a local market to get the natural fruit juice drinks, bagels and cream cheese, John had suggested, picking up three newspapers, one of them the local Santa Clarita paper. On the Santa Clarita paper, Old Glory and the John Quigley tree camp was on page 1, complete with a photograph and a description of the latest efforts to save the tree from destruction.

In the store there was friendly chatter from people who had Christmas dinners they needed to get food stuffs for, some of which were talking about the likelihood that the tree will eventually be cut down. I didn't ask around so I couldn't gauge what the locals think but the comments I did hear were positive toward what one called their "local celebrity."

We arrived back at the tree quickly and hunted around for one of the ground crew to help get the breakfast and newspapers past the safety fence to the tree sitters (John and another person were up there this morning.) There's a safety fence because the ground is in a muddy location that urbanites might have difficulty with. It _is_ a construction zone, of course, so there's a need to keep well wishers from leaving the dry ground and getting into the minor hazard zone immediately under the oak tree.

I was glad to help and not just a little proud of myself to be _able_ to help. Not so surprisingly I was also somewhat envious of those making the effort to save this tree, even though it looks to me that the effort is hopeless. Looking at the situation I don't see any way that the tree will be saved and, if it comes down to it, the tree sitters will be easily evicted since this is an urban tree sit, not a sitting taking place out in the middle of no where where a "cherry picker" is difficult to bring in. John has plans to leave the tree some time in January, handing off the effort to another activist. Eventually, however, I can't help but feel that the final activist will eventually have to be forcefully removed since it looks like a lost cause.

As you can see from the photographs -- when they get posted to my web site -- a fair number of people showed up to say "hello" and to wish John a Merry Christmas. There's a table covered in plastic that looked to have drinks and possibly foodstuffs donated by locals to support the activists, and the fence is decorated with signs. Since supplies trickle in, there's also an accumulation of trash so my sons and I collected all of it in two trips, taking it home for disposal -- it was the least we could do.

John can receive letters and he's got paper and pens so presumably he can write back. If you wish to send a note to the Santa Clarita Old Glory tree sitters, here's the address:

John Quigley, Old Glory
419 Pico Canyon Road
Stevenson's Ranch, 91381.

Just as an aside, Santa Clarita has a population of around 127,000 people, an altitude of 2,688 feet, and is located at Lat 34.48626 Lon -118.3938.


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