Tree sitter John Quigley is used to donations of food and supplies.
Now a local engineer has donated his services to Quigley's campaign to save a 400-year-old oak on Pico Canyon Road near Santa Clarita. Quigley has remained perched in the tree for nearly two months to protest a road-widening project that calls for the oak's removal.
Flanked by environmental supporters gathered in front of the towering oak, Valencia-based structural engineer J. Brent Hoerner on Wednesday unveiled a proposal that would split the roadway in two, leaving a narrow pocket in the middle for the tree.
Hoerner said the new lanes would be elevated 18 inches by pylons to protect the tree's roots and allow water to reach the soil. Under the proposal, the westbound lane would curve around the north end of the tree, separated by at least a 30-foot buffer.
The elevated stretches would be 200 feet long and drivers could maintain a speed of 55 mph. The project's cost could reach $2.5 million, about three times more expensive than a regular road, Hoerner said.
"This is something I thought I could help with," said Hoerner, a professional engineer for three decades. "This oak stands as a symbol of trees all over the world."
Bill Rattazzi, president of John Laing Homes, which is required to widen the road as part of its building permit for a new subdivision, said he had not seen Hoerner's proposal. But he said the company is working with the county to come up with a resolution.
He said moving the tree to a neighboring park site as proposed earlier is still "a very real possibility." Such a move would cost at least $250,000.
"We're continuing to take a look at what's doable," Rattazzi said. "We're going to be practical. We're not just going to throw things up against the wall to see what sticks."
Ken Pullman, a spokesman for the county Department of Public Works, said that Hoerner's plan would be considered, but added that relocation of the tree remains the most attractive solution.
Quigley and his supporters have rejected the relocation plan, saying the tree is too old and too large to survive a transplant.
The tree, dubbed Old Glory by environmentalists, was slated to be cut down to expand Pico Canyon Road from two to four lanes. Quigley thwarted the developer's plans by climbing up the tree seven weeks ago in protest.
Since then, environmentalists have rejected proposals to move the oak, but are now backing plans such as Hoerner's to build a road around it.