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VENTURA COUNTY ROUNDUP | Ojai

Trees Mourned With Poems, Songs, Tears

March 19, 2000|GINA PICCALO

Tree lovers shed tears and read poems at Libbey Park on Saturday to mourn what they called the slaughter of two dying giant oaks that were trimmed to 15-foot stumps to keep heavy branches from falling on children playing below.

About 40 people took turns reading the letters and poems written to the Libbey Park oaks. Some carried flowers and others sang songs.

They criticized the Ojai City Council for its decision last week to remove two 150-year-old oak trees instead of moving the playground. There are tentative plans to carve the stumps in memorial. A third tree will be saved, if possible.

"This is like leaving the dead carcass," said protester Nan Tolbert, a longtime Ojai resident. "It's sick. It's more hurtful seeing this than cutting the whole thing down."

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday March 22, 2000 Ventura County Edition Metro Part B Page 4 Zones Desk 1 inches; 27 words Type of Material: Correction
Tree protest--An article Sunday about the removal of two oak trees in Libbey Park in Ojai incorrectly attributed a comment to local resident Nan Tolbert. The comment came from another resident.

Ojai native Julie Tumamait-Steaslie called the tree cutting an awakening to environmentalists who have been apathetic about saving trees in the past.

"We're all to blame for letting things slide," she said.

John Christianson, the 51-year-old activist who perched in one tree the morning after the vote until he was arrested late Wednesday night, called the situation tragic.

"I just got out of jail as they were taking them down," he said. "Until they went down, I hadn't let go of the idea that they would be saved."

Christianson acknowledged that the dying trees posed a threat to children on the playground, but added that the city didn't take proper precautions to preserve the health of the trees.

A special material pushed against the roots of the trees to cushion a child's fall instead strangled the trees by keeping their roots from breathing, he said.

Tree trimmer Mark Hatton spent seven hours Thursday trimming the two trees as protesters jeered. He suggested the activists were more motivated by the media spotlight than true environmentalism.

"I stopped the work maybe a dozen times," he said, "and I explained to the people that there are 100 trees in the Ojai Valley per month that are illegally cut down and you never hear a word."

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