After nearly a week parked 20 feet high in a Red Oak tree in her Bluff Dale Drive neighborhood, local musician and all around on-stage cut-up Sutu Forte finally gave way to city of Columbia authorities who peacefully and gently lowered her to the ground. My old friend Sutu had been protesting the city’s use of eminent domain power to remove trees in the right-of-way of the Shepherd to Rollins Trail extension that will allow safer and easier travel from the Old 63 highway area in southeast Columbia to the vicinity of the MU campus.

The city had staged a number of hearings and other discussions explaining its decision to extend the trail, but it had become clear Sutu & Co. would hold out as long as the law allowed, and beyond, it turned out. Her band of supporters was small but convinced it is a slight against nature to remove the tree and its like from visual and physical access by a public increasingly denied such pleasures. Nobody could criticize the protestors’ good nature and intent but very few thought their case had merit after the city had gone through a litany of procedural steps leading up to finally imposing its will.

City officials proclaimed a measurable majority of residents wanted the trail and its extension, putting local conservatives in a sort of quandary. They liked the play-out of someone sticking it in the eye of the city but at the same time didn’t exactly relish coming down on the side of trail blazers and tree sitters, all in one protestor usually not among their army.

Most thoughtful observers were glad Sutu emerged unscathed but also glad the trail extension will be built, making the trip across that part of town safer and, actually, providing more potential access to the natural landscape proclaimed by the Bluff Creek neighbors.

The eminent domain issue usually rests on more contentious ground. Opponents often don’t want gendarmes from the state, city or nation confiscating their land regardless of the purpose, and their protests are laced with virtual cries of “NIMBY, Not In My Back Yard.” The Chamber of Commerce did not sponsor a membership contingent ready to storm the bucket truck lowering Sutu back to Earth, but during her vigil none of them were standing around its trunk calling her names, either.

We should be proud of ourselves. We had an honest-to-goodness protest staged by a professional performer and nobody got hurt. Next time we might want to send a piano aloft with Sutu. If you haven’t heard, she can make a lot of music from one of those instruments that looks to be nothing more than a keyboard.


You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.

Mae West