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Residents protest tree removal from Capitol Hill park

December 6, 2010 - 03:10 PM
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A group of Capitol Hill residents are facing down park officials, heavy equipment and cold winds to keep two trees from being removed from a city-owned park in Southeast.

The District Department of Parks & Recreation wants to remove two trees from the Watkins Recreation Center field at the 1200 block of E Street SE to install artificial turf for a playing field on the site.

Mary Case and a handful of other residents live near the park and didn't want to see the trees go. They say residents were only told about DPR's plan last week. When they saw the rigs arrive to remove the trees around 8:30 this morning, Case and three other women raced to the park and positioned themselves around the trees.

"I’m not going to let them take that tree down, bottom line," Case told ABC7's Stephen Tschida.

When DPR officials told the women they would meet with residents and the trees would get temporary reprieve, the protesters retreated to a nearby school to talk with park officials.

"We weren't in there five minutes and they started cutting down the tree," said protestor Martha Loomis.

DPR spokesman John Stokes blamed the incident on "a communication error" and that someone with more authority at DPR ordered the tree taken down.

The four women quickly returned to the remaining tree, this time vowing not to leave. After park officials again promised a community meeting and pledged not to remove the remaining tree, three of the four protesters retreated from the cold. Case, however, says she won’t leave until the tree removal equipment is removed from the park.

"I’m cold, yeah, but I’m just gonna stay here, just gonna stand," Case said.

DPR officials will meet with the women and other community members tonight at 6 p.m. They hope to reach some sort of compromise to save the remaining maple tree.

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