Longform

Chain Saw Massacre

Page 4 of 4

He also said the state permit process for cutting publicly owned trees usually entails public hearings where state officials could take neighborhood views and issues into consideration.

ADOT takes none of those steps.

But had it done so in this case, there's little doubt what Brock and her neighbors would have said about the tree removals.

Her likely testimony is visible to anyone who drives the Maricopa Freeway west from 16th Street. Wheeling toward 13th Street about a quarter-mile east of Seventh Street, you can see a looming, 50-year-old eucalyptus tree that Brock planted shortly after she moved to the property. The tree was there before the road, before the billboard. In fact, you almost don't know there's a billboard with the message "Don't Let the Sierra Club Drain Lake Powell" behind the tree until you whiz past the clearing that ADOT created.

But its poor visibility isn't likely to change.

Brock keeps a stack of soiled correspondence, going back several decades, that details every written exchange between her and the billboard's owners. And on a calendar she records past visits from Eller employees and what they've told her.

She and her son Mike used to trim the trees themselves.

"We originally thought we were obliged to do that," says Brock. "But that's when they were intimidating us and we didn't know our rights."

Since wising up, she has turned away pruners who've come alone and pruners escorted by police. "The police knew they didn't have any standing out here."

She's rejected numerous offers to let Eller landscape her entire yard.

"They told me they'd even plant some new trees if I cut that one big major tree down," she says. "It's probably 60 to 70 feet tall. They offered me $2,000. I said no. They got up to $10,000."

But, Brock says, "Why would I want a little bitty tree, maybe three feet tall like the ones they're going to put out on the road?"

She has a better idea.

With a look of mischief, she points to a pine tree rising next to her house.

Says Brock, "Now that's a good, sturdy tree. It really holds the water well, so I'm watering and fertilizing that sucker like crazy.

"And I hope it grows up and blocks that damned sign long after I'm gone."

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Edward Lebow
Contact: Edward Lebow