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'Old Glory,' John Quigley still standing tall 5 years later

Environmentalist revisits historic oak saved in Stevenson Ranch

Posted: April 21, 2009 10:20 p.m.
Updated: April 22, 2009 4:30 a.m.

John Quigley stands near the massive oak tree Santa Clarita Valley locals dubbed 'Old Glory' at Pico Canyon Park in Stevenson Ranch on Tuesday afternoon.

More than six years after sheriff’s deputies plucked him out of its branches, environmentalist John Quigley stood beneath the gnarled and verdant limbs of a centuries-old Stevenson Ranch oak tree Tuesday, marvelling at its longevity.

In January 2003, Quigley climbed down from the tree dubbed Old Glory after spending 71 days sitting in its branches, protesting a developer’s plans to fell the tree and make way for a road.

“It’s always exciting to come and see that the tree is alive and flourishing,” he said.

John Laing Homes intended to cut down the tree — estimated to be approximately 400 years old — in order to widen Pico Canyon Road from two lanes to four.

In the wake of the national attention drawn by Quigley’s protest, the developer eventually agreed to instead move the oak roughly a quarter-mile to the east, where it now sits in the center of Pico Canyon Park.

So far, the tree appears to have done well, Quigley said, though he added it may take another five years to determine if it has truly taken root and will survive.

“I’m cautiously optimistic,” he said. “This tree has an incredible will to live.”

The 48-year-old Eagle Rock resident said he wanted to visit Old Glory for Earth Day. He visits the park every few months, he said.

He was joined at Pico Canyon Park by a handful of friends who stood by him in his struggle to save the tree.

“No one ever does anything alone,” Quigley said. “This tree was saved because the community wanted it saved.”

The attention from his protest opened up new opportunities for Quigley, who said he has worked on environmental causes on every continent.

He recently returned from South America, he said, and was headed to Alaska Tuesday for a climate conference.

“A lot has gone on in the world (in the past six years),” Quigley said, lauding an overall greater consciousness of environmental and green issues.

In a world that has gone through a rapid-fire technological revolution since 2003, he said Old Glory stands as a reminder of “something that spans a much longer time line. People are starting to understand the future is green.”



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