By Don Ford

MARTINEZ (KPIX 5) — A beloved redwood tree in Martinez had to be cut down because of its proximity to power lines, but neighbors did not want to let it go without a fight.

For nearly 50 years the tree has stood watch over the neighborhood just south of state Highway 4. PG&E says it was too close to these transmission lines and ordered it cut down.

That’s when Susan Amell stepped in. “I was wrapping myself around the tree so they had to stop,” said Amell.

[You’re being a tree hugger?] “I am a tree hugger, I’m a proud tree hugger.”[How’d that go?] It went good for about an hour … and then they called the police on me.”

Neighbors dispute that the tree was too close to the lines. They say in any case, it could have been topped and trimmed instead of being cut down.

“It was really a heartfelt day, sad day. You know, it really was,” said Amell.

“I was just sad in my mind and I was just trying not to show it,” said young resident Lilly Stone. “I’ll just imagine that it still there, that’s the best I could do.”

Friday afternoon, PG&E spokeswoman Tamar Sarkissian offered this statement, “The safety of our customers and the communities we serve is PG&E’s most important responsibility. The city-owned tree was growing adjacent to a 230 kV transmission line and posed a safety risk within PG&E’s right-of-way. The tree was removed to ensure safety, reliability, and to maintain state and federal compliance. PG&E notified the City of Martinez in advance of the work.”

The tree was cut up and chipped in a shredder.

Susan Amell still mourns the lost tree, “I also shoveled the chips and scattered her little ashes throughout the garden so that she’s not dead. She’s not totally gone.”

Neighbors said the city has offered to work with them to find an appropriate replacement tree.