Despite fears that Lawrence Berkeley National Lab was rushing ahead Tuesday with construction of a new road leading to the site of a proposed controversial new lab, crews were taking down two trees in Strawberry Canyon for safety reasons, not roadway building.
The trees—located near the site where lab officials want to build a new road—were being given the ax because of threats to traffic on the roadway below.
Even Doug Buchwald, a staunch supporter of the Memorial Stadium tree-sit, said he didn’t have any quarrel with the cutting down of the trees, given that one had already reportedly fallen and the roots of a second were exposed.
“What I really understood was how quickly those machines can get rid of a tree,” he said, referring to the heavy-duty wood-chippers brought to the scene by private contractors.
Lab officials on the scene weren’t able to comment on the record, given threats of litigation challenging construction of two new buildings at the lab.
One, the Helios Building, would house the $500 million research program in crop-derived fuels and recovery of hard-to-reach oil and gas deposits. The roadway in question would provide easier access to that building, located toward the lab’s western edge.
A second building, designed to house a federally funded computer center, is planned for the opposite end of the lab complex near Blackberry Gate.
Lynn Yarris of the lab’s public affairs staff, said she was taken by surprise when calls started pouring in Tuesday morning about the tree removal.
After calls of her own, she discovered that the cutting was a project by the university, not the lab, and involved the chopping up of one tree that had already fallen and two others—a redwood and an oak—that presented a hazard to traffic on the roadway below.
One traffic lane was blocked during the arboreal operation.
Foes of the two proposed buildings have challenged the projects in part because they say Strawberry Canyon is a cultural landscape and should be preserved.