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Grandmother Arrested After Chaining Herself to Oak Tree

February 7, 1989

MERRITT ISLAND, Fla. (AP) _ Ruth Ganter got up early, positioned her portable potty and a portable telephone nearby, sat down in a lawn chair and chained herself to the huge oak tree in front of her house.

As bulldozer and backhoes roared in the background, Mrs. Ganter, 60, was arrested Monday for her solitary protest to save aged trees from a $1.8 million road-widening project.

She could get a year in jail and pay a $1,000 fine, but Mrs. Ganter says she made her point that neither government nor private industry has adequate concern for the environment.

″I’m out to save the trees,″ she said before deputy sheriffs came for her. ″They have sentimental value, environmental value. What are we going to leave for our grandchildren?″

County deputies arrived about 5 1/2 hours after she began her protest, cut the chain and booked Mrs. Ganter on a charge of trespassing on a strip of land that had been hers until the county took it for the project. She was released on her own recognizance.

Brevard County commissioners approved the project last year over the objections of homeowners in this eastern Florida community between Cocoa and Cocoa Beach.

Officials said there was no way to realign the road to save the trees.

Commission Chairman Roger Dobson said, ″There are just certain things that have to go when you widen a road.″

In December, homeowners were told that portions of their property and the trees on them had been condemned. Mrs. Ganter received $16,000 for an 18-foot wide, 229-foot long strip of property in front of her house. That left her with about a 10-foot wide front yard.

When the workers manning the heavy equipment got to the trees in front of her house, they carefully removed signs drawn by Mrs. Ganter’s grandchildren. One sign tacked onto the tree where she had chained herself read, ″Save the trees please.″

Another on a nearby oak read, ″Go Away Bulldozer.″

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