YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Los Angeles

New Address Planned for Ancient Oak in Santa Clarita Valley

Initial relocation work could begin next week. Protester vows to stay in the tree 'till the end.'

November 22, 2002|Carol Chambers | Times Staff Writer

A Santa Clarita Valley developer announced plans Thursday to transplant a 400-year-old oak dubbed Old Glory that stands in the path of a road-widening project needed to accommodate future growth.

Bill Rattazzi, president of John Laing Homes, said the oak will be boxed and moved about a quarter of a mile east along Pico Canyon Road. It is to become the centerpiece of an 18-acre park that will include 170 newly planted oaks. He said preliminary work could begin next week.

John Quigley, 42, however, said he's not budging from his perch in the ancient oak, where he has managed to stave off bulldozers for the last three weeks. "I'm staying till the end," he said.

Quigley said he misses his family and hopes the end may be near, perhaps by Thanksgiving.

If Rattazzi is serious, Quigley said, he should "put his money where his mouth is" and take out a $10-million insurance bond as a precautionary measure in case the tree dies after it is moved.

"I'm sitting tight," said Quigley, a Pacific Palisades resident recruited by local activists for the campaign that has drawn national media attention and the support of actress Rene Russo.

"If the tree dies, the money would go to an Old Glory legacy fund to preserve oaks," Quigley said.

Although initial work on the tree project could begin in a few days, the actual move will not start for at least three months, Rattazzi said. He said the work can begin with Quigley still in the tree. But at some point the activist will have to come down, ready or not.

After all, Rattazzi said, Quigley is trespassing and could be forced off the tree.

"It's not safe to move the tree with him in it," he said. "We'll look for the Sheriff's Department to assist us in whatever way necessary to move that tree. Mr. Quigley is not going to be doing the tree any good by staying on his perch."

Rattazzi said his company has assembled a team of experts -- arborists, landscape architects and oak tree specialists -- to perform the move, which will begin with trenching and boxing of the tree.

The oak must then remain where it is for at least 90 days while steel beams are wedged under its roots. Meanwhile, soil will be imported to the new site to help in the transplanting, said oak tree specialist Lee Newman, president of L. Newman Design Group.

"The tree has been growing in a creek-side setting and will be moving to an upland, oak-wood setting," Newman said. "We'll try to mimic conditions as best we can."

Sometime after February, the oak will be moved to its new location on a huge dolly -- similar to the type used to move the space shuttle, Newman said. The tree is healthy and it is the right time of year to begin relocation, but no one can be sure of the outcome.

"Not only is there no 100% assurance it won't die if it's moved, there's no 100% assurance it will live if it stays where it is," Newman said.

Rattazzi would not disclose how much the move will cost, but said that it will be "substantially more" than $250,000. The company has already spent about $1 million on environmental issues in Pico Canyon, he said.

Meanwhile, Quigley was joined in the tree Thursday by his brother Kevin of St. Paul, Minn., who had been following the standoff on the Internet.

"I wanted to come and see him to let him know his family is behind him," Kevin Quigley said over a two-way radio while sitting on the perch beside his brother. "We're all proud of him."

Los Angeles Times Articles