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Activist Takes Break From Tree-Sitting to Cast a Ballot

Man trying to save an oak leaves for five hours, but another holds his spot.

November 06, 2002|Carol Chambers | Times Staff Writer

After spending five days in a tree, activist John Quigley took a brief timeout from his campaign to save the ancient oak near Santa Clarita to vote in Tuesday's general election.

Quigley climbed down about 11 a.m. from his perch 60 feet off the ground, then drove home to Pacific Palisades to cast his ballot. By 4 p.m., however, he was back up in the tree. He says he'll remain there until he's certain the 400-year-old oak can be saved.

Quigley, 42, has joined local environmentalists in their effort to spare the tree, which is slated for removal so that Pico Canyon Road can be widened from two to four lanes to accommodate future development. The project was approved by the county.

"It's important that this tree be saved because it's a symbol of everything that's already been lost here," he said, referring to the area's explosive development. "At some point you have to draw the line and say, 'Stop.' For me, it starts with one tree."

This isn't the first time Quigley has gone out on a limb. He said he spent three weeks in a tree during the mid-1990s as part of a successful bid to save a British Columbia rainforest.

In Santa Clarita, area residents have been stopping by since last Friday to show their support for Quigley, including Barbara Walker and Carolyn Wolf of Valencia, who opted to "go see the man in the tree" Tuesday instead of a movie.

"I think what they've done in this valley with all the development is sickening," Wolf said. "But I couldn't do this ... not without my Starbucks every morning."

Added Walker: "These people have a passion. You really have to admire them for that."

Friends, area residents and others have offered to sit in for Quigley when necessary.

One woman said she would climb the tree even though she's afraid of heights, because she wants her future grandchildren to be able to enjoy the oaks. Reseda resident David Creech, 41, took over the perch while Quigley voted.

Although the road-widening project is in an unincorporated area outside Santa Clarita city limits, the City Council scheduled a study session Tuesday night to consider asking county officials to scale down or reroute the road.

Developers of Stevenson Ranch have promised to await the outcome of Tuesday's meeting before taking action about the tree, protesters said.

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