Tree Sitter Sparks City Battle

For the fourth day in a row, a protester has successfully spared a North County park tree from the ax -- but the question is for how much longer?

A report in the San Diego Union-Tribune Monday said city leaders in Encinitas are now debating whether to preserve the 25-foot tall Tipuana in Orpheus Park.  The tree was supposed to be cut down -- along with 10 others -- last week.  The lone tree remains standing after Andrew Watkins, 27, staged a one-man sit-in around 2:45 a.m. Friday.

“I’m willing to live here as long as I have to," he said.

And he's kept his word.  Watkins' friends act as stand-ins, taking turns so that he can use the bathroom and stretch his legs.  Even nearby school children from Paul Ecke Center Elementary School have joined in on the protest and neighbors are stopping by to see if he needs anything in his tree house.

The tree-cutting was reportedly decided several years ago between the city of Encinitas and a nearby homeowner's association, according to the North County Times.  The trees were ordered to be cut down because they blocked the view of neighbors living at the Coast Point condominiums. 

Watkins is circulating a petition in support of sparing the last tree and demanded Monday to speak with a city official -- preferably the mayor -- the Union-Tribune reported.

Most City Council members favor the tree removal.  City Manager Phil Cotton has said repeatedly that he plans to “let him sit up there."  But the report said documents are being searched to find if there is any written record about the promise to protect the residents' views.

The felled trees are being replaced with 22 younger trees at the south-side of the park. 

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