CAMAS — Despite a developer cutting down the trees they hoped to save, the Camas Tree Protectors sit-in went on as planned Wednesday night. Not even a drizzly July evening could put a damper on the event for the group and its 40-plus protesters.
“Welcome to our tree party!” Alicia King, one of the group’s founders, yelled into a megaphone when a new family joined the sit-in. “We’ve got cupcakes, licorice, watermelon and lots of good vibes.”
King, Geri Rubano and Heather Kesmodel formed the group after they saw a sign alerting the public to the planned removal of 79 trees to build homes at 2223 N.W. 43rd Ave. They went to a hearing and thought they won when the examiner determined that 37 of the trees should be saved. Developer Waverly Homes sued the city, and the settlement agreement allowed Waverly to cut down all of the trees and pay $15,000 into the city’s new urban tree program.
If anything, the group said seeing the trees cut down earlier in the week motivated it more to host the event.
“We were sad,” Kesmodel said. “This is devastating to see.”
She said the group could look into becoming a nonprofit in the future. In the meantime, it plans to attend more city council meetings to have members’ voices heard.
“We want to work with the city to create a heritage tree program and build up the current urban tree program,” Kesmodel said.
In the first hour of Wednesday’s event, city Councilors Deanna Rusch and Ellen Burton visited with the crowd.
“I want to support our citizens in anything they’re passionate about,” Rusch said. “It’s important to see what residents care about. That’s true for me as a Camas citizen, not just a councilor.”
Burton said she wanted to hear what the protesters had to say, and attending the event was a “great opportunity to listen” to them.
The councilors saw and heard a pretty festive group. While the trees were gone, the group’s admiration of them remained.
“Trees, we’re doing this for you,” King said in the megaphone across the street from the cleared lot.
“More trees, less grass holes,” another protester said into the megaphone later. They also waved signs and encouraged drivers to honk in support of trees.
“Every honk is amazing,” King said.
The group played “Let it Grow” from Dr. Seuss’ “The Lorax” throughout the event, mixed in with other songs, including a cover of Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi,” known for the lyric, “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.”
Waverly won’t be putting in a parking lot. The plan is to develop the 3.84-acre plot into 12 lots for houses. The group said it’s not trying to stop development; it just wants to see the city developed with more focus on conservation.
“We’re going to build momentum and make changes,” Rubano said. “This is how you make change, by showing up.”