132 JULY/AUGUST2015 | BETHESDAMAGAZINE.COM
that as long as the tree activists were on
private property, and had the homeowner’s permission, it was a civil matter. It is
a scene that has played out over and over
in the months since.
Standing under trees, it turned out,
worked—even though it was too late for
the Wangs. “Every time I turn into my
driveway, I see no shade. I see ugly Pepco
towers,” Albert Wang says. “This house is
like a stranger to me.”
AS TREES CAME DOWN along
Pepco’s right of way, homes and subdi-
visions that once were hidden from one
another by woodlands came into sight.
People could see their connection to one
another. New alliances formed across all
kinds of former divisions—neighbors
who jokingly described themselves as
“right of Attila the Hun” found common
cause with a Democratic precinct cap-
tain, and people who likely wouldn’t have
met if not for the War of the Trees had
each other on speed dial.
In Inverness Forest, businessman
Goodman joined the activists after
Pepco foresters said several of his trees
had to go. Goodman’s father was a White
House press photographer. Goodman
had met famous politicians and had a
front-row view of Martin Luther King’s
“I Have a Dream” speech. He prides him-
self on being genial and able to negoti-
ate calmly and effectively with anyone.
Fed up with talking to Pepco representa-
tives, the Goodmans and several neigh-
bors put up signs along their back prop-
A core group of tree activists from
Fallsreach, including Ainane and Siemers,
fanned out farther along Pepco’s right of
way, tying yellow crime tape on trees
slated to be felled, seeking more home-
owners who were willing to defend their
trees by standing under them when the
cutters arrived. They told everyone will-
ing to listen: “You don’t have to roll over
and play dead for Pepco.”
That sounded good to Hilde Dachtera,
82, of the Glen Park neighborhood. Her
mature oak and maple trees sheltered birds
and memories. They shaded the garden
she’d planted with her late husband. She
didn’t want to let them go without a fight.
On Dec. 16, 2014, Pepco hung door tags
on several homes on Dachtera’s block of
Aldersgate Road, announcing that they’d
soon be trimming and cutting trees there.
A few days later, Pasternak, the Pepco vice
president, spent hours in the cold, walking yard to yard with Dachtera and her
neighbors, looking at trees and explaining that RM 43 obligated the utility to
remove limbs and trees that threatened
their power lines.
“Every morning at 7: 30 a.m. we kept
seeing trucks and hearing saws going
in the neighborhood,” Aldersgate Road
resident Robin Winterrowd, 53, says.
“Nobody could sleep. With the saws
going, we couldn’t even hear Christmas
music.” Winterrowd and her neighbors
were afraid to leave their homes to buy
holiday presents or groceries in case the
tree-cutters came while they were out.
“We saw them clear-cut a property not
far from us, and that terrified us,” Win-
terrowd recalls. “We were under siege.”
In late December, Pepco’s tree-cutters
reached their block. Winterrowd and
neighbor Bette Wilkes, 82, decided it
would be less stressful to work with Pepco
than to fight them. Wilkes reluctantly let
the workers take down an old white oak
at her back fence line. For the first time in
the nearly 50 years that she’d lived in her
house, she could see the power lines from
her kitchen window.
Several days later, on Jan. 5, Dachtera
was asleep when a neighbor called to
alert her that the tree-cutters were in her
backyard. It was before 7: 30 a.m. They’d
let themselves in through her side gate.
She called Siemers, and the tree activists
Local activists began tying
yellow crime-scene tape
around trees slated to be felled.
power to the people