Agreement may bring tree sitter to ground

No cops. Just compromise.

Bo Harris promised Thursday not to cut down the “Borders Tree” until July 4. The young woman who has camped in the tree this week said she might come down as soon as she has the promise in writing.

“I just don’t want anybody to get hurt over there,” said Harris, one of the property owners. “That’s what I’m worried about.”

“Maybe I’ll get a break,” said the woman who calls herself “Sihka.” She’s been living in the tree, enduring bone-chilling cold and rainy weather, since Tuesday night.

A 40-foot trunk is all that remains of what had been a 75-foot tree until workers cut off the branches Tuesday.

Harris, CEO of Harris Construction, said he probably wouldn’t have the legal document finalized until Monday. Until then, the protest site near Eighth and Rhode Island streets may continue to be one of the hottest impromptu tourist spots in Lawrence.

Just after noon Thursday, a bus of senior citizens circled the site slowly so passengers could gawk and wave at Sihka and the other protesters camped around the tree. Some downtown workers came by the camp during their lunch break to take a look, and even videotape the scene.

The branch cutting angered those who had long seen the tree as an icon against the corporatization of Lawrence; office space and condominiums are planned for the site. Protesters conducted a vigil Tuesday night, during which Sihka climbed the tree and vowed not to come down until she received a guarantee the rest of the tree wouldn’t be cut down.

The act was reminiscent of other environmental and preservation protests the city has seen. In the 1980s, a protester dressed as Santa Claus chained himself inside a toy factory at Sixth and Massachusetts streets to prevent its destruction; later, environmentalists tried to obstruct the cutting down of trees along the Kansas River at Riverfront Mall.

By Thursday afternoon, Sihka’s allies had installed a platform to give her more room. They also had created a mini-tent city at the base of the tree.

Harris met Thursday with a protester, the unrelated Rev. Joy Harris, to work out a deal.

Bo Harris said he had time to be patient with the situation.

“We’ve made an effort over the last year to communicate with friends and neighbors about this project,” Harris said Thursday. “We’re trying to keep the dialogue open so we can have a project that everybody will be proud of.”

Joy Harris said the July 4 date gave tree-lovers time to raise money and make a case for preserving the tree’s remains permanently at the site.

“We’re trying to create something beautiful from the destruction,” she said.