University of California, Berkeley spokesman Dan Mogulof said the university today began chopping down oak trees next to its football stadium as the first step in a project to build a news sports training center adjacent to the stadium.
Mogulof said this morning that the university would only be "pruning" trees today in the wake of a court ruling on Thursday that allowed the university to go forward with the project after a 20-month legal battle.
But at a 4 p.m. news briefing next to the football stadium, Mogulof said the university actually began chopping down trees today and plans to chop down a total of 42 trees by the end of the day Monday.
He estimated that about four to five trees had been removed as of 4 p.m. today.
Videographer LA Wood, who has filmed activities at the grove of oak trees since a UC Board of Regents committee approved the project December 2006, said at least six trees have been taken down so far.
Michael Kelly, the president of the Panoramic Hill Association, which is one of three groups that filed suit to try to stop the project, said he thinks at least a dozen trees had been removed.
Wood accused UC officials of issuing a "misleading" statement about their plans for today.
"They didn't prune trees, they killed them," Wood said.
Four tree-sitters remained in a single tree near the stadium and at least 50 supporters had gathered near the site to watch the trees being cut down.
Wood said he thinks the university wouldn't have cut down the trees today if there had been a larger group of protesters.
Mogulof said there are currently 70 oak trees in the grove next to the stadium and when the university finishes the work, 20 will remain.
He said the university will plant three new trees at the site for every one it removes.
Mogulof said the university expects that it will take two and a half years to build the new sports training center.
Shortly after 5 p.m., UC police detained Ayr, the leader of the ground support team for the tree-sitters.
Kelly, who witnessed the incident, said Ayr had been arguing with a small group of university students who supported removing the trees and were carrying a sign that said "Free Firewood."
Kelly said he didn't think Ayr did anything to warrant being detained.