The past two months have ravaged the Northeastern and mid-Atlantic U.S.: heavy snow, intense rain, hurricane-force winds.
In my small suburban New York town, as in many communities, we have lost dozens, likely hundreds of trees. People have died when a heavy limb, or entire tree, fell on them.
Arborists, at least, are happy, booked solid for business cutting up and chipping these trees and limbs for months to come.
The property of our apartment building contained many lovely old specimens — one, beside the garage, gave us a huge, veritable cloud of white blossoms each spring, a sight I look forward to every year.
Now, destroyed by the weight of so much snow from a storm a few weeks ago, it lies sheared into three parts, its already-budding branches lying on the wet pavement.
One of my favorite trees, so ethereal in every season it almost shimmers with beauty, is the Japanese maple. There was one on the grounds of a nearby college, right by the roadside, and I’ve driven past it almost daily for 20 years. I love that tree.
Now it’s a raw stump, its delicate lace-like branches lying by the side of the road, lined up with dozens of others. It’s like looking at a row of corpses.
Am I the only person who finds the loss of these gorgeous community members deeply sad? Who — if anyone, in a time of totally devastated city, town and state budgets — will even think to replace some of them? Who can afford it? Does anyone care?
Maybe, being Canadian, and having spent a lot of my time outdoors, I think about trees. Our flag is centered with a red maple leaf.
From the USDA Forest Service, which lists nine advantages of urban forests:
Trees are major capital assets in America’s cities and towns. Just as streets, sidewalks, sewers, public buildings and recreational facilities are a part of a community’s infrastructure, so are publicly owned trees. Trees-and, collectively, the urban forest-are important assets that require care and maintenance the same as other public property.
Trees are on the job 24 hours every day working for all of us to improve our environment and quality of life.
Without trees, the city is a sterile landscape of concrete, brick, steel and asphalt. Picture your town without trees. Would it be a place where you would like to live? Trees make communities livable for people. Trees add beauty and create an environment beneficial to our mental health. Trees:
- Add natural character to our cities and towns.
- Provide us with colors, flowers, and beautiful shapes, forms and textures.
- Screen harsh scenery.
- Soften the outline of masonry, metal and glass.
- Can be used architecturally to provide space definition and landscape continuity.
Trees impact deeply on our moods and emotions, providing psychological benefits impossible to measure. A healthy forest growing in places where people live and work is an essential element of the health of the people themselves. Trees:
- Create feelings of relaxation and well-being.
- Provide privacy and a sense of solitude and security.
- Shorten post-operative hospital stays when patients are placed in rooms with a view of trees and open spaces.
A well-managed urban forest contributes to a sense of community pride and ownership.
At least one person cares – even if they’re out in California. Write Paul and Joan Wild, to their local paper:
We have lived in this community for 54-plus years, which may tell you that we are old. I have spent my younger days shoeing horses in the small shopping area just south of the 10 freeway off of Citrus Avenue. It seems that every time I go to get my hair cut, there are more changes. The latest being the group of sycamore trees cut down to allow more parking. The only green in the shopping mall and it is cut down. I think if you stretched, you could get one space. I am more than aware we need revenue, but come on, do you need every mature green tree gone?
Those trees survived with no watering or care for years, but the trees did offer shade and a place to rest and have your lunch in your car.
A mature tree is a sight that if the developers have their way, will be a thing you can only tell your children about. This area has looked like a bomb site for more than a few months.
Right now the most common sound is the buzz of chain saws and the roar of chippers — we also lost one of our property’s oldest, tallest pine trees.
This summer, I’ll miss its shade, beauty and softness. I sure hope replanting is as important as clean-up.