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Nevada City tree supporters say they’ll continue to physically protect about 10 trees

John Orona
Staff Writer

About 30 Nevada City tree supporters gathered underneath the dappled shade of a blue Atlas cedar on Broad and Bennett streets Wednesday afternoon to say their final good byes.

The tree, initially a symbol of the activists’ resistance to PG&E’s plans to cut 263 trees in the city, was determined by Nevada City arborist Zeno Acton last week to have significant heart rot, making it unlikely to last a year.

“The fact that the tree has stood as long as it has, with slowly degrading structure, is testament to the strength of tree tissues and is proof of the challenges of determining when a tree might fail or die,” the report stated.

Matt Osypowski, organizer for community group Save Nevada County Trees, described the event’s atmosphere as somber and loving, explaining losing this tree was different than the others because the decision was made as a community.

He said residents have created an intimate relationship with the tree nicknamed Bella, with people sitting in the tree, painting it and playing music nearby.

“There’s certainly grief, but there’s also a sense that this was a choice that we came together. It wasn’t something imposed on us by an outside corporate force and that makes it a healthier kind of grief,” Osypowski said. “We did the right thing in working as hard as we did to make sure there was actual, thorough, scientific analysis done of this tree before the decision to remove it.”


According to PG&E spokesperson Brandi Merlo, the majority of the tree mitigation work has already been completed in Nevada City, and the company hopes to finish the rest “as soon as possible,” due to public safety concerns.

“With respect to the timing of the remainder, there are various factors that are at play, among them are weather and the availability of resources,” Merlo said in an email.

Osypowski said while the list of trees the group protects is slowly dwindling, they are still committed to physically protecting about 10 trees total on private property and at the Pioneer Cemetery.

While the mood around Bella has been festive the last few weeks, Osypowski said activists at the cemetery have been anxious as they expect a more direct confrontation from police next week.

“We’re headed for a much more aggressive confrontation here… There’s a lot of anxiety about what that is going to look like,” he said. “The mood is more anxious and angry.”

According to Osypowski, activists have built a 35-foot high platform in a central tree at the cemetery that has been occupied 24 hours a day in preparation for the police to forcibly remove people. He said the group remains committed to its nonviolent approach.

“There’s a sense that this is a space that belongs to the community… we’re committed to nonviolence and committed to claiming the space and we’re not going to leave it easily.”

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


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