This time green activist tries to save tree from ground up
By Joe Mosley
<i>Mike McCarthy admires the cedar he hopes to save by moving it from the Whiteaker neighborhood to a yard in west Eugene.</i>
To Mike McCarthy, it isn't so much different from tree-sitting.
The bottom line is that he's trying to save a tree - although this time he's digging one up to move it, rather than sitting among the boughs in defiance of those who might otherwise cut it down.
"If it wasn't a living thing and we didn't care so much about it, we wouldn't be doing this," McCarthy said Monday, waist-deep in a circular trench he and a few friends dug around a 3-year-old, 15-foot-high Western red cedar.
Their hope is to find a heavy equipment operator willing to work for free or at a reduced cost to help them move the young tree and its massive root ball from the Whiteaker neighborhood to the yard of a friend about 20 blocks away in west Eugene.
The tree is a far cry from the mature giants that McCarthy has built his tree-sitting reputation saving, but with a trunk that measures 8 to 10 inches in diameter it's also much larger than a typical candidate for transplanting.
Jeff Anderson, an urban forester for the Eugene Department of Parks and Open Space, said very few local trees with trunks larger than 2 inches in diameter are moved.
"It's unusual to find that size of tree being transplanted in this area," said Anderson, who had a look at the project last week. "As a culture, we have lost the skill set for handling this kind of thing by hand, the way Mike is doing it. He's looking at possibly 7,000 pounds of root ball, there."
The cedar, which sits in front of a house on Blair Boulevard just north of the Van Buren Street intersection, was planted as a memorial to Cynthia Hughes. She died in an apartment behind the house in September 2000 at age 40 and was a mutual friend of McCarthy's and the woman who now hopes to have the tree moved to her yard.
The Blair Boulevard house sits next door to and is owned by the St. John Maximovitch Eastern Orthodox Church - the building that was formerly Icky's Tea House - and is being converted to a rectory for the church's priest.
The priest had planned to have the tree cut, but agreed to let McCarthy and his friends attempt to move it instead.
"I get attached to trees," McCarthy said. "I watched this tree grow from a little baby, and it's just my instinct to try to keep it alive."
McCarthy has been a key figure in several tree-sitting protests in and around Eugene in recent years, including a couple that have prevented the cutting of healthy trees in the Owens Rose Garden. His most notorious protest was one that went awry - he fell 40 feet from a tree adjacent to the Fifth Street Public Market after several nearby trees had been cut to make room for construction of the Nike Store.
"This is almost like tree-sitting, in that there's an element of brinkmanship to it," McCarthy said at the tree-transplant site. "If we don't (move) it soon, we might as well not move it at all because it will just die in place."