A small but vehement protest over cutting down a sequoia tree to build a bicycle and pedestrian bridge has drawn a large contingent of City Hall to St. Johns' Pier Park this afternoon.
Mayor Charlie Hales' office has been barraged with phone calls since television news stations broke the story that a handful of neighborhood activists are refusing to let the tree be cut down.
More than a dozen city employees have been deployed to the tree, and the Parks & Recreation Bureau has called in a mediator from Resolutions Northwest to explain to protesters the public process that doomed the sequoia.
"We're under direction from the mayor's office that we make sure everyone understands the process," says Parks Bureau Spokesman Mark Ross. He says the mediator has been brought out "for the two people who are adamant that they don't want to see the tree cut down under any circumstances."
The city funded a contract for conflict-resolution services from Resolutions Northwest with $104,692 in one-time money last summer. That budget item is slated for cuts this year.
The pedestrian bridge, which crosses railroad tracks from Chimney Park to Pier Park, is part of the North Portland Greenway—a 10.3 mile trail extending all the way to downtown. Ross says planners tried to avoid chopping down the 120-foot-tall sequoia, which is 18 feet in
"The other plans, which were considered and rejected, involve knocking down two or three trees," Ross says. "If there were a way to do this without knocking down any trees, we would have done it. I think it's a testament to Portland that people care so passionately about this tree."
If the city can convince activists to leave, contractors will cut down the tree tomorrow.
WW's news partner KATU has been covering this story over the past two days. Watch their video: