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Willits bypass protester works deal with prosecutors

A man who spent 10 days perched in a 100-foot crane to protest the Willits highway bypass has reached a plea agreement with the Mendocino County District Attorney's Office, his lawyer said Thursday.

Will Parrish pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor trespassing-related charges in exchange for having 14 others dropped, said Sebastopol attorney Omar Figueroa. The charges eventually will be reduced to infractions if Parrish obeys the rules of the agreement, he said.

Parrish does not face jail time but will be ordered to perform 100 hours of community service, which he plans to serve in a community garden, Figueroa said.

The agreement also requires that Parrish not commit crimes, interfere with bypass construction, nor possess the kind of locking steel tube that protestors use to attach themselves to machinery and each other.

Parrish also will pay restitution to Caltrans, but the amount has not been determined, Figueroa said. He said it's expected to be something less than $10,000.

Caltrans had contended that crane climbing had cost them about $500,000, Figueroa said. Caltrans said the overall costs of the months of protests of the highway bypass exceed $1 million.

The protesters contend the bypass is unnecessary and will irrevocably damage wetlands and streams. Proponents say it's necessary to reduce traffic congestion and restore the city's small-town feel.

The 5.9-mile, $210 million bypass is being built to skirt the city of Willits, where traffic regularly slows to a crawl as Highway 101 narrows to two lanes through downtown. The bypass will eliminate the last traffic lights on Highway 101 between San Francisco and Eureka.


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