Tired of street improvement projects that remove old trees to make way for sidewalks, Bishop Resident Mary Baker, chained herself high into an elm tree on Fowler Street Tuesday morning in protest.
Law enforcement officers, Bishop Fire, reporters and bystanders gathered at the corner of Grove and Fowler for the one woman protest. City Administrator Rick Pucci was asked to mediate, speaking to the former City Council candidate, who was now twenty feet above ground. While you might expect the negotiations to be tense, the back and forth was calm and sounded like a civil debate over trees that you might hear at a council meeting.
To improve the safety of kids walking to school, the City of Bishop plans to put in sidewalks along Grove Street. Public Works Director David Grah says that eight other trees have already been cut down for this project. The tree that Baker climbed into was slated to be cut down today so that a pedestrian ramp could be built on the corner of Grove and Fowler. The City of Bishop plans to offer as many as three replacement trees for every tree that is cut down on this project.
In a written statement along with comments she made from the tree, Mary Baker is looking at the loss of trees not just on this project but in the many street improvement projects in recent years. Baker says that over thirty, large, healthy shade trees have been cut down in the past three years to make way for endeavors like the Home Street Improvement project in the summer of 2006. The large trees, like the Elm she climbed, are replaced by trees that Baker says are shrubs, that wont grow taller then fifteen feet.
After about an hour or so in the tree, Baker agreed to come down. She wanted assurances that the tree wasnt being taken down without cause saying to Pucci, if you show it needs to come down, I will come down. When Pucci agreed, the Bishop Volunteer Fire Department pulled their ladder truck around and Chief Ray Seguine climbed up to help Baker out of the tree.
Baker was taken to City Hall by Police Chief Kathleen Sheehan. At press time, Baker had not been charged with any crime.
Baker feels very strongly about the big old trees of Bishop and does not believe that trees need to be cut down to make room for sidewalks. In her written statement, Baker says that when people see a woman chained to a tree they might think, she must be a nut, but she adds that sometimes you have to do something a little over the top to get peoples attention.
As agreed, the tree will live for another day, literally. Public Works Director David Grah reports that the tree is expected to be cut down Wednesday.