Sunday, August 8, 2010
What's happening to the city trees?
At N. Delaware and Brunswick street in the Old Lutheran Cemetery we have a beautifully spectacular, old Sycamore tree, perhaps two hundred years old, that has been gloriously disregarding the neglect that has allowed it to fill with English Ivy, that leaves its dead branches for storms to prune, and its calls for help, by sending out suckers, ignored. This should be an honored and protected tree in our community.
Instead, sometime in the last week, this Sycamore sustained something far worse than neglect: it was actually butchered and maimed by our Public Works. It’s hard to say what prompted this; there was one dead branch removed and many healthy ones. The work showed absolutely no knowledge of proper tree pruning techniques, no aesthetic judgment and little understanding of proper maintance for public safety. Every single branch was cut in a way that cannot heal, leaving many open wounds susceptible to disease and decay which weakens existing branches, creates weak structure for new growth and can eventually kill the tree. Healthy branches were removed some 30 feet up, far above the height of safe passage for vehicles. The shape of the tree, viewed from B Street and N. Delaware has been badly damaged. Tree pruning is as much an Art as it is a Science. The ability to turn on a chainsaw does not an arborist make. This is a valuable and irreplaceable treasure and this level of workmanship had no business going near it. This is unacceptable.
Click image to enlarge.
As we spend valuable time and money, whether it comes from grants or not, planting hundreds of new trees, we also need to plan for how to responsibly and skillfully take care of them because it does matter to their heath, safety and beauty. If we cannot take care of what we already have and continue to destroy valuable existing trees and cultivars on purpose (think B Street Cemetery) or by neglect (think inkberry hollies in Rail Road Square) without understanding their value – in dollar terms, in quality of life terms, in environmental terms – one has to question why are we even bothering to plant at all?
I cannot help but think, how on earth can a town that is so willing to display its ignorance, its poverty of judgment and its short-sightedness, have any hope of attracting employers or investors? How a community looks is an expression of who lives here; and if we are willing to live with this level of skill, what does that say about us?
Also, this last week, all the small trees on the steep embankment along 2nd Ave. at D Street were cut down to the ground. What do you think is holding up the embankment? For free! The tree roots are. A little farther down the road you can see where this is going: it took a lot of $$$ to build the concrete retaining wall to hold up a similarly steep slope. Why was this done? Wasting time and energy on projects that will end up causing huge corrective expense down the line is not cost effective. Understanding erosion control is necessary in this town, not optional, and I don’t think the grant money was designed to plant trees so we could take them down elsewhere.
All the trees along the corner of 5th and H Street have also been brutally and irresponsibly hacked, for what purpose? They will not look better or be safer after this. Is this some kind of anger management therapy?
On the plus side, recently, a volunteer pruned the Cherry trees in Square Corner Park. The winter storm damage was pruned and the branches were limbed up so they could be walked and mowed under. The volunteer did a beautiful and skilled job of pruning and shaping these trees, all the cuts will heal over, adding to their health and adding beauty and value to the park. Please, go take a look at these trees and compare the results of work done at 5th and H and on the Sycamore at N. Delaware and Brunswick Street. I am not suggesting skilled work should be voluntary, although that is much preferable to what is currently happening. The City needs a process by which horticultural issues are assessed and identified on city property, determining which need skilled care; it’s too late after it’s been chainsawed. The City grass-mowing is farmed out; why not critical horticultural work being farmed out to skilled people? Or, a citizen’s advisory board, utilizing skilled individuals, some of whom already voluntarily take care of city property, becoming more formalized. We cannot afford to continue neglecting and abusing our community landscape in the name of saving money, because it’s not.