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Trail construction begins despite woman protesting in tree

Sutu Forte, member of Columbia nonprofit It's Our Wild Nature, protests the construction of a new trail in the city before the project is set to start Nov. 4.


Columbia city officials began cutting down trees and bushes below a Columbia woman who was in a tree in protest of the construction of a trail.

The Columbia Police Department and Boone County Sheriff's Office attempted to talk a Columbia woman out of a tree on Monday morning.

LIVE PLAYBACK of the scene can be viewed in the player below.

The land off of Bluffdale Drive is marked for construction of a new trail on Rollins Street, and Sutu Forte has been in the tree since last week in protest. The construction is set to start on Monday.

Members of Columbia nonprofit It's Our Wild Nature started protesting the construction last week. Forte, who is a member of IOWN, has been living inside a tree on the property to halt the construction.

Construction can still begin, even with Forte in the tree, said Columbia city spokesman Steve Sapp. The construction would not be a danger to Forte if she remained in the tree, Sapp said.

Forte told ABC 17 News that she would not leave the tree.

"I don't know what else to say except that I'm staying, and if they're going to take this tree down, they have to take me, too," Forte said.

Members of IOWN planned to bring Forte food and water as needed, but said now, they would be considered trespassers.

A resident who lives in the neighborhood said the project wasn't what he thought it would be.

"We didn't know. When we said 'well sure, a trail is a good idea' that it meant cutting down this many trees," L.R Hults said. "We thought it was going to be a trail through the woods - not that you have to have either the trail or the woods. That's ridiculous."

A Boone County judge granted a request by Columbia city leaders to remove any people protesting on land marked for construction of a new trail on Rollins Street.

The new trail will connect the Rollins Street to the Bluffdale Drive cul-de-sac. Construction on the trail is scheduled to start Nov. 4 and continue until the summer of 2020. The court order says the city could have to spend tens of thousands of taxpayer money if the project is delayed.

A court decision in January ruled Columbia could purchase the land for the trail by way of eminent domain. The city was awarded an order of condemnation by Harris in March.

IOWN is protesting the construction to preserve natural areas of the city.

The Columbia City Council approved the design and construction of the trail in 2018. City leaders are using federal funding to build the $2.8 million project.

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Madison Fleck

Madison Fleck is the content editor for ABC 17 News.


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