‘It’s a living being’: Three charged with trespassing over Nevada City trees | TheUnion.com

‘It’s a living being’: Three charged with trespassing over Nevada City trees

After three protesters were arrested for trespassing at Pioneer Cemetery Friday morning in an attempt to protect Nevada City trees, Orchard Street residents are now left wondering when they will be next.

The three protesters ­— Jennifer Long, 69; Shirley Osgood, 72; and Julia Bernardini, 35 — made a deliberate decision to leave the scene in handcuffs, and now just one tree protector remains hanging on a limb.

“Now we’re kind of left hanging, like what is going on?” Orchard Street resident Kathy Dotson asked. “There’s been no communication whatsoever by anybody.”

According to Dotson, after having no contact with PG&E crews for days, she’s found her own form of direct action protest, with less risk of arrest.

Dotson said after consulting with three arborists who said two trees on her property would not be a hazard if trimmed, she spent money out of pocket to trim them herself and painted over the PG&E marking designating them for mitigation.

“They look, you know, they look properly trimmed and appropriate for where they are, so we’ll see what happen,” she said. “As far as I’m concerned, that was the best way to protest. I mean, if I had evidence that these trees were going to be fine, if they were just mitigated, then I was willing to pay for it. And I bet other people could do that, too.”

While residents like Dotson await the arrival of contractors to cut their trees, PG&E spokesperson Brandi Merlo said the Nevada City work is nearly complete.

“We have less than 50 trees to remove,” Merlo said in an email.

Dotson said she’s eager to have the uncertainty over with, as even with no work on her property, the staging has affected her daily life.

“There’s no communication between other services, because we’ve had an interruption in our trash, and our green waste, and our recycling — I’m standing outside next to this overflowing recycling bin on our property, because there’s no communication whatsoever,” she said. “And then mail has been delayed a few different days, when the mail person couldn’t get onto our street… having to deal with the noise and the dust, and the chainsaws, all of that.”


Following the early morning arrests, PG&E contractors erected a fence around the perimeter of the area, which police on the scene said was to protect everyone’s safety.

As of Friday morning, organizers said the tree protester referred to as “Tarzan” — who remained in a tree that day — had no plans on coming down, and has the supplies to hold out for some time.

“Now we’re trying to keep him supported from down here,” Bernardini said.

For weeks activists have gathered at the cemetery preparing for when crews may come to cut the trees down, and say they will continue their fight.

“I was standing up for my great-grandmother,” Osgood said, referring to the tree. “It may look like just a tree to you, because it’s not a human and not an animal, but it’s a living being.”

Prior to the shift toward defending the cemetery trees, activists rallied around a blue Atlas cedar on Bennett and Broad streets. The tree was home to sitters, singing, painting, and became a symbol of the group’s opposition to PG&E’s plan to cut more than 260 trees in the city, before it was felled last week.

The group has also started a letter writing campaign to the California Public Utilities Commission and PG&E’s court-ordered monitor Mark Filip, asking for an injunction that would stop the cutting of the remaining trees, among other demands to work with locals.

According to Nevada City Councilman Doug Fleming, the agitation has been working.

He said the city is working with the county to transfer $500,000 in undergrounding funds to the city, though details have not been finalized.

“That was the big sticking point (for undergrounding), the funding,” Fleming said. “I’d like to see undergrounding for all of these streets, because we’re going to have the same issue next year on a different street.”

Fleming cautioned the city may need to explore other funding means like bonds in the long term to deal with the high costs of undergrounding.

“The fire danger, saving the trees, undergrounding would solve all of that,” he said. “It’s not an easy solution, it’s not a cheap solution, but it’s probably the best solution.”

To contact Staff Writer John Orona, email jorona@theunion.com or call 530-477-4229.

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