Frank Robinson, executive director of Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, has waded into the urban tree discussion in a personal way — he’s posted on the new Lewis Ginter about his efforts to help save a stately willow oak tree on Seminary Avenue:
I stepped into this issue last week when I was asked to assist in saving an old Willow Oak on Seminary Avenue. It is a stately tree, but is has a problem – a crack down its trunk. I spoke with some passionate folks who want to save the tree, and I spoke with the City arborists, who were professional, informed and patient in answering my questions. I went home feeling there were no bad guys in this, but that something was amiss.
Much of the explanation about the tree’s removal was about lack of adequate funds and the liability a compromised tree is, once identified, to the City and its taxpayers. Basically, if a tree is compromised – in this case by maturity, a full canopy and the weight of an abundant acorn crop – it becomes a hazard. And, even if treated, should it fall and do property damage or kill someone, the City clearly has a problem. The tree needed to go because of risk management. Inadequate funds will be an issue we are all going to deal with in the near future, but the impact here is that the City arborists are stretched too thin to go back to monitor a doctored tree to see if it is improving or getting worse. Thus, once recognized as a potential risk, it has to go.
What I have been stewing about is the conflict of values between the risk management argument, which has merit, and the tree lovers, who are doing the City a favor by advocating for the trees.
The problem is that there is no discussion about the benefits trees bring to our environment. The policies are about removing trees, not about keeping them. This is the challenge to City leadership – to articulate and measure the value of trees to the City, and to communicate to the community why we want to keep as many as we can, and plant more.