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Willits bypass protester gets new supplies while occupying crane

  • (Steve Eberhardt, Willits News)

Environmental activist Will Parrish huddled for days on a tiny platform overlooking Willits’ Little Lake Valley, soaked by the unseasonable rain and daydreaming of hamburgers to stave off hunger.

“It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done,” he said by phone Thursday from his perch 50 feet off the ground in the midst of the controversial Willits bypass construction project, which he and other activists aim to stop. His platform is wedged into a 100-foot tower used to drive drains into the ground.

Parrish had contemplated climbing down before another activist came to his rescue Wednesday night, bringing enough food and water for another 10 days.

The unidentified man scaled another tower and used ropes and pulleys to launch supplies to Parrish’s platform 60 feet away.

There were some tense moments when a crane operator jostled the newcomer’s tower, threatening to dislodge the Earth First activist, Parrish said.

The man was shaken but able to slip away without being arrested at about 7 a.m. Thursday, Parrish said.

Caltrans and CHP representatives said Thursday they were unaware of the alleged crane-shaking incident.

The brazen escapade is the latest in a string of incidents that have resulted in more than 30 arrests of those seeking to halt construction of the $210 million, 5.9-mile bypass.

The project is intended to alleviate traffic jams on Highway 101 as it narrows and slows through downtown Willits. Protesters, however, say it is unnecessary, ugly and will cause irreparable harm to wetlands in Little Lake Valley.

“I can’t just stand by while Caltrans and their contractors destroy this beautiful area,” said Parrish, 31, of Ukiah.

Caltrans officials say the protests so far have cost taxpayers $1.2 million.

The protests have delayed but not stopped construction underway on several fronts. Caltrans spokesman Phil Frisbie said work on the supports for the elevated portion of the bypass will begin next week.

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