Cottonwood, USA - After months of protests on both sides of the cause, the controversial Mago Mother Earth Statue at began to be disassembled Tuesday morning and carried away.
The end of the lengthy debate over the 39-foot statue on a 10-foot tall pedestal ended in something of a muted way.
About 20 Save Mago protesters ended their obstruction of heavy equipment at the park with a morning vigil that was agreed upon by the Tao Fellowship before the 8:30 a.m. beginning of the disassembly.
Organizer Genia Sullivan said a meeting was held with the Tao Fellowship. "They told us they are going to take down Mago, no matter what we do. They want to comply with the City of Cottonwood requirements and could be fined up to $30,000 for each day of violation beyond the Feb. 24 deadline."
The protesters reportedly asked for several conditions in exchange for allowing the disassembly to begin.
"The Fellowship said they would allow us to have 30 minutes with Mago before the 8:30 a.m. start of the removal," said Sullivan.
The Tao Fellowship also agreed to a 7 p.m. Wednesday question-and-answer meeting with the protest group to determine how to continue the "spirit of Mago" after its removal.
The protest began in the drizzling rain Saturday morning and continued through Tuesday morning. A blog web site was launched at savemago.org to follow details of the protest and post pictures and video.
Sullivan, the manager of a Dahn Yoga studio in Closter, N.J., and Edwin Kim, a manager of a studio in Anaheim, Calif., organized the protest. Sullivan and others contributed to the construction of the Earth Park for which she said they had been waiting about three years.
Sullivan said that Tao Fellowship and Dahn Yoga employees share the same "vision," but are different companies. No Tao Fellowship employees were involved in the protest, she noted. About half of the protestors are employees of Dahn Yoga.
"I think that it was worthwhile, the protesters feel a lot better. A lot of people stopped by, giving us $5, or smiling and waving at us, wishing good luck. They have been very friendly.
"By the end," Sullivan said, "the feeling was much more supportive. People asked questions and shared their thoughts. One person advised how we could contact the ACLU. There were also people who said negative things, but they were in the minority. We want to put in writing that Mago has significant support in Cottonwood."
Cottonwood City Manager Doug Bartosh says he was contacted last week by the Fellowship asking for additional time beyond the Feb. 24 deadline.
He recalled, the Fellowship said, "they are running into problems and asked for a few more days," according to Bartosh, but he refused the request.
"That is not acceptable to us," he told them. "The Planning and Zoning Commission has directed us to take whatever action is necessary if the statue is not down on the morning of the 25th."
Bartosh said that if necessary, the city would have to go to Superior Court to get a court order to force them to remove it. He also noted that could also trigger a revocation of their conditional use permit on the property.
In addition to removal of the large Mago statue, the other smaller statues must be moved within the setback requirements for the zone and proper screening provided so they are not visible from the public street.
The planning commission asked for a completed master development plan be submitted for the site within six months of the Jan. 25 hearing or the CUP would be terminated.