Up a Tree

John Quimby.
John Quimby.

By Irish America Staff
February / March 2003
By Irish America Staff
February / March 2003

For over a month, John Quigley has been living the life of an ecowarrior, turning his back on the comforts of modern life to fight for the environment. He has been living up a tree in Santa Clarita, California in an effort to prevent its planned destruction. The tree in question is a 70-foot tall, 100-foot wide, 400-year-old oak tree that Los Angeles County has called to be cut down to allow Pico Canyon Road to be widened from two lanes to four, accommodating future development west of Santa Clarita.

Quigley, a freelance special events producer and self proclaimed “environmental educator,” has become a hero to locals and a thorn in the side of local developers. Growth is one of the key issues in California, which averages over 600,000 new residents annually, with the disappearing landscape being an emotive issue for many environmentally aware Californians who lament the assault upon their quality of life.

Developers say they are caught in the middle. They are required by law to build the road and have no other viable route. In an effort to break the stalemate, they have brought out tree experts to see whether the tree can be safely transplanted. However, Quigley and other activists don’t think it would survive relocation. For the moment, there are enough volunteers to sustain Quigley’s post — people bring food and come along to offer support. A dentist even climbed willingly up the tree to fix one of Quigley’s molars. At the time of going to press, discussions between Quigley and the developer, John Laing Homes, were said to be proceeding positively with regard to moving the tree. ♦

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