Protester goes to great heights

ENCINITAS — A local environmental protester created a plywood platform and squatted in an Orpheus Park tree (a tipuana tipu) in an attempt to spare it from chainsaws. Andrew Watkins of Oceanside, who goes by the nickname “Jru”, constructed the platform with two friends at 3 a.m.
Around 7:30 a.m. on Jan. 30, a two-man tree removal crew arrived and quickly cut down eight surrounding trees. The scene was observed by Encinitas Parks Director Chris Hazeltine and two Sheriff units.
One officer attempted to speak with the protester. Jru ignored the officer and continued playing his guitar and singing. He has refused to leave the plywood platform. The officers, after a short while, departed.
Encinitas Councilwoman Teresa Barth was present during the protest. She said that the decision to remove the trees was made behind closed doors and the council was not advised of this action. Barth is exploring whether or not the city can delay cutting down the remaining tree so a more reasoned, public decision can be made.
An Encinitas Parks official overseeing this project stated that they regret cutting down the trees. This was seen as the only option to restoring the view for the residents in the adjoining condo project. The city was honoring an agreement made with the condo homeowners to not block their ocean view, the official said.
It is the city’s policy to avoid topping trees because it injures the tree and is not cost-effective.
Several residents who live near Orpheus Park have proposed imposing a three-year moratorium to preserve the tree. In that time, a more appropriate, lower growth tree could be planted in the nearby area. Once the new tree is established, the offending tree could be removed without leaving the area so stark, they proposed.
As the trees were being felled, Jru called out to the crew in Spanish. “Don’t cut my brother down,” he said. “He’s my brother. My brother is in here.”
Students from Paul Ecke Central turned out with signs and chants of support for the lone remaining tree. Eleven trees were slated for removal and ten have currently been destroyed.
“Liberate the trees,” Jru said when asked for a statement.

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