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Controversial Menlo Park Tree Removal Put On Hold

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The oak tree nicknamed 'Granny' that residents of the North Fair Oaks area of unincorporated Menlo Park are trying to save. (Mary Ann Mullen)

The oak tree nicknamed ‘Granny’ that residents of the North Fair Oaks area of unincorporated Menlo Park are trying to save. (Mary Ann Mullen)

MENLO PARK (KCBS) – The planned removal of a beloved Menlo Park oak tree has, at least temporarily, been suspended. Neighbors have apparently succeeded in delaying a portion of a water pipeline construction project – but perhaps only for a short while.

With a backhoe digging in the background on Monday, neighbors surrounded “Granny,” an oak tree estimated to be between 250 and 300 years old. The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission claims the tree interferes with the restoration project for the Hetch Hetchy Water System.

KCBS’ Matt Bigler Reports:

Construction has already begun on the project, as miles of new pipeline are being laid down. Hetch Hetchy will one day transfer drinking water up and down the Peninsula.

Maureen Berry with the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission said the ultimate goal was to cause as little disturbance to the surrounding environment as possible.

“Our commitment was really to do this project with minimal impact both to the natural and human environment,” she said.

Unfortunately, she said the 100-foot tall oak tree in part of unincorporated Menlo Park sits right in the pipeline’s path and must be taken down. Berry said they have done research and cutting down the tree is the only option.

“What we discovered was that the extent of the root system was so extensive that whatever we would do would compromise the tree,” said Berry.

The protesting neighbors disagreed, and on Monday took a stand in an effort to save what they consider the “matriarch” of their community.

“I don’t know, I don’t think we’re going to climb in the tree and live there,” reasoned demonstrator Mary Ann Mullen. “You can look around, it’s all professional people here. These are people who have jobs and who, you know, live in the neighborhood and really view this tree as a thing of importance.”

“So, how far are we willing to go?” she continued. “I’m willing to stand under it and almost get hurt, yeah.”

Ultimately, Mullen and the other demonstrators declared victory by mid-day Monday, upon learning their actions had swayed the San Mateo County Planning Commissioner, who is also a resident in the community, to postpone the tree’s removal until further notice.

Still, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission planned to go forward with the project.

Neighbors say their next step will be to pursue a restraining order to try and stop construction.

(© 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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