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Tree sitters in Arcadia remain defiant [updated]

January 12, 2011 | 11:03 am


John Quigley, one of the tree sitters perched in a grove of oaks and sycamores being torn down by county workers in Arcadia on Wednesday morning, said he would remain in his oak tree until work ceases.

"They've eased off the destruction," he said by cellphone at 10:15 a.m. "I can see broken tree trunks and piles of debris below. They were toppling a nearby sycamore. I yelled and they stopped. As long as I'm up here, they will not cut down this tree."

Quigley added that supporters were sending out alerts to attend a candlelight vigil at the entrance scheduled for early Wednesday evening.

Arcadiaoaks The Los Angeles County Department of Public Works is removing 179 coastal oaks and 70 sycamores in the wash in the San Gabriel Mountains just below Santa Anita reservoir, to make way for muck being dredged from behind a nearby reservoir.

Perched in a fire-stripped canyon, the 83-year-old reservoir is a critical component of the county's aging flood-control system and is used to recharge underground aquifers that the cities of Sierra Madre and Arcadia rely on for drinking water. Last dredged in 1993, the reservoir currently operates at reduced capacity because it could not otherwise meet state seismic standards, county authorities said.

The grove, known locally as Arcadia Woodlands, is on L.A. County Public Works property near Santa Anita and Elkin avenues, where protesters and residents have gathered.

A 30-day moratorium imposed in December by County Supervisor Mike Antonovich, to study alternative to razing the trees, expired earlier this month. Public-works officials concluded that their original plan was the best resort. 

[Updated, 12:05 p.m.: Los Angeles County Sheriff's Capt. Joe Fennell said, "We're in the process of negotiating and hopefully they will come down peacefully from the trees."

Failing that, Fennell said, law enforcement wouild issue a dispersal order and file trespassing charges against the four tree sitters, including Quigley.

"We are prepared to be here for the long haul," Fennell said. "One of our big concerns is that there are wild animals in this region, particularly bears. So, we will have sheriff's personnel here through the night to protect the protesters."

Bob Spencer, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works, said he expected the trees to be cleared within two days. "The wood will stay on site. It will be chipped and used as ground cover. Some of the stumps will be left to rot as part of the natural decaying process."

Spencer said the chipped wood and rotted stumps will eventually be deposited elsewhere in the area to improve soil conditions.

David Czemanske, a member of the executive committee of the Angeles Chapter of the Sierra Club, said of the recycling plan: "How am I supposed to be satisfied with such a trivial mitigation as that?"]

-- Louis Sahagun

Photos, from top: John Quigley in a self-portrait Wednesday morning on an oak limb in Arcadia. Credit: John Quigley. The grove pictured last month. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times