The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, July 21, 2006


Rachel Banay is lashed to branches 35 feet up in an oak tree. (Photo by Ellen Huber)

Middlesex tree-sit protest ends after 36 hours

After 36 hours up in a tree on the Middlesex School campus, Molly Tsongas (Middlesex Class of 2000) was exhausted but still ready to talk about her opposition to the school's expansion into a portion of the Estabrook Woods. The tree-sit protest ended about 5 p.m. on Tuesday when Tsongas and fellow alumna Rachel Banay ('03) climbed down from the trees, paraded with their supporters and their banner through the Middlesex campus, and went home. "The tree-sit as set up was not meant to be indefinite," Tsongas said.

Although the tree sitters failed to bring the school to the discussion table, Tsongas felt that the protest had been successful as it demonstrated their "dedication to the issue" and became "a community event." In addition to statements of support from Congressman Marty Meehan and Senators Kennedy and Kerry, they got "lots of honking" and people stopping to bring them food and water.

On Monday morning, Tsongas and Banay, supported by a group calling themselves Middlesex Graduates for Estabrook, ensconced themselves in trees along Lowell Road (not in the Estabrook Woods), demanding that the Middlesex Trustees "engage us and other stakeholder representatives in a facilitated halt further development until some agreement is reached." The Middlesex Trustees issued a response late on Monday, stating that they have operated in full compliance with all local, state and federal regulations.

Earlier on Tuesday, Banay spoke with the Mosquito by cell phone from her perch 35 feet up in an oak tree. The weather on Monday and Tuesday was brutally hot and humid. She had lashed herself to the tree around 5 a.m. on Monday and descended that night about 10:30 p.m. because of "a medical emergency provoked by being up there." Banay refused to discuss the medical issue, but after a night at home, she returned to the tree at 4:45 am on Tuesday morning. "The most difficult [part of the tree sit] is getting by on little sleep and feeling immobilized." She tried not to doze off during the day. "It's kind of nerve-wracking to let yourself relax while up here."

Tsongas stayed in the trees for the full 36-hour duration. Monday evening she descended briefly to switch trees, as it was safer to sleep in the tree initially occupied by Banay. She slept for about three hours in a hammock. What was most difficult? "I was disheartened by the reaction of the school," she said.

Banner urging Middlesex School to reconsider development of 12 acres of the Estabrook Woods hangs along Concord Street during a tree-sit protest. (Photo by Ellen Huber)

15 year history

For the past fifteen years the Middlesex School and a group of "very concerned citizens," including many Middlesex students and alumni, have litigated and argued over a portion of Middlesex-owned Estabrook Woods where the school wants to expand its facilities.

The school currently holds permits to construct two athletic fields with artificial turf, which will require no irrigation, pesticides, fertilizers or mowing, and eight tennis courts on approximately 12 acres of Estabrook Woods.

(For a review of the Middlesex-Estabrook Woods dispute see "Middlesex School announces expansion into Estabrook Woods," Mosquito, December 3, 2004, available on the web.)

2006 The Carlisle Mosquito