9/21/2014

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Protester arrested as big tree is cut down in Pier Park

Protester arrested as big tree is cut down in Pier Park

PORTLAND, Ore. - One person was arrested Friday during a protest at a Portland park where city crews cut down a giant sequoia tree to make room for a bike path and bridge.

The tree sits inside Pier Park, just across some railroad tracks from Chimney Park in North Portland. The new bridge will span some railroad tracks and connect the two parks.

Mark Ross with Portland Parks and Recreation said a plan to take the tree down to facilitate the construction of the bike path and bridge connecting a 10-mile North Portland greenway has been in the works for some time.

"We sympathize with people who want to save the tree," Ross said when he talked to KATU News on Feb 19. "We don't want to knock down a tree, but it's in balance with everything else, the best possible solution."

The sequoia tree is around 70 or 80 years old.

"We don't just go around cutting trees down willy-nilly," Ross said. "This is a very carefully considered project."

Fewer than a dozen protesters were on hand Friday morning as crews began preparations to trim, top and remove the 120-foot tall tree.

About eight Portland police officers arrived to keep protesters separated from the work crew.

One woman kissed the tree and said goodbye to it before the operation to cut it down began. She was escorted to the tree by the commander of the Portland Police Bureau North Precinct.

Another woman, Chris Fountain, called Portland officials to see if she could get them to delay the operation.

When her request was refused, Fountain proclaimed she was going to get arrested, crossed police tape and began running toward the tree. She was stopped by police officers and arrested.

"I think it's an absolute travesty to put a hiking path that has access for fire trucks in the middle of a beautiful sequoia tree," Fountain said.

The fight to save the tree began with Dennis Keepes, who tried to build support to save the tree before it was cut down Friday.

City officials said they have plans to mitigate the loss of the tree.

They said there are plans to plant additional giant sequoias in the same area and the tree itself will be recycled and turned into different features at a nature play area in Westmoreland Park.

The rest of the trees in the large grove of sequoias at Pier Park won't be affected by the project.

The bridge is part of a project to connect Kelly Point Park by trail all the way to the East Bank Esplanade across the river from downtown.

KATU reporter Dan Tilkin and photographer Mike Warner contributed to this report

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