To the editor:
I confess, I’m a tree hugger and have been since I was a kid. When they pull down the Hometree in the movie Avatar, I cry. I’m passionate about the trees on my property, in my community and the world.
I’m not saying trees should never be cut down, proper forest management plans for the removal of trees. While I’ve planted more than a dozen trees on our property since moving here 19 years ago, I’ve also cut several of my trees down; a scraggly ornamental peach tree, a pine that just wasn’t doing the job any more, a maple that succumbed to verticillum wilt.
When I saw the city was looking for people to be members of a newly established tree board, I was at city hall with my resume in hand the next day. I waited eagerly to hear if I’d secured a coveted spot on this important branch of city government. Finally, an e-mail inquiry resulted in the information that yes, I had been appointed.
I waited eagerly for the first meeting of the group to be called. And waited. And waited some more. I contacted the city manager about the board, but was told there was no need for the Tree Board to meet because there were no tree disputes at the moment.
What? Tree boards do much more than arbitrate disputes, I pointed out, naming some of a few things they can do to conserve and promote our urban forest. I waited again for a meeting to be called. And waited. And waited some more.
At last, I e-mailed a detailed and passionate letter to the city manager, citing the many tasks of an active and committed tree board. I copied the letter to everyone on the City Council and the mayor.
My letter included the following list of tree board responsibilities:
- Creating and passing a tree ordinance.*
- Writing articles to educate the public on the environmental and economic benefits of planting and maintaining trees on their property.
- Providing educational programs for schools and other organizations.
- Bringing in experts for tree seminars on various topics. One topic idea: the importance of various tree species to the Anishinaabe People.
- Writing grants and/or planning events to raise funds to purchase trees for residents to plant.
- Assisting residents in planting trees.
- Organizing Arbor Day and Earth Day celebrations.
- Teaching urban maple syrup production.
- Creating a city tree nursery.
- Have an educational booth at local events.
- Become part of Tree USA and the Arbor Day Foundation.
- I waited eagerly for a reply, but nothing appeared in my inbox. After two weeks of no contact from City Hall, I sent an e-mail inquiry to the city manager to ensure he’d received my letter. This met with the same deafening silence.
- I waited patiently for another month and finally decided to attend the regularly scheduled City Council meeting Monday, June 5, to find out just what was going on. When, at the end of the meeting, I had an opportunity to express my frustration, I was told that a faulty server had interfered with e-mail communications, and no one had received my e-mails until just the day before the meeting!
- I was so surprised by this information that I hardly knew how to respond! Apparently, our city government has been unable to communicate with its residents for over a month and nothing was done to correct this sorry state of affairs.
- Not one person at that meeting said they were sorry about the situation. No apology was given for not responding to my letter, only excuses. Even now, having admitted to receiving my e-mail, no one has responded to my heartfelt communication or offered an apology.
- I was informed that the reason no meeting has been called is that I am the only person who responded to the call for Tree Board members and, as one council member smirked, they can’t have a committee of one.
- When I suggested the Tree Board be given a budget to work with, all I got in return were blank stares. In the end, they passed the responsibility of beating the bushes for more members to me!
- So how about it, Wayland residents, is there anyone out there who would like to join me on what I think is a very important mission? You probably know as well as I do that trees do more than just beautify the landscape, they also increase energy savings, promote better atmospheric conditions, have a positive impact on mental health, and increase property values up to 10 to 15 percent.
- I can even offer you a free and very useful educational opportunity. If you go to www.treeboardu.org you can sign up for the Tree Board University, a unique online training to assist you in learning more about trees, about people, and about serving in a citizen advisory role. Come on, there must be a few more tree huggers out there. Let’s get together and promote our urban forest!
- — Gail Hollinger, Wayland
- *Footnote: A good tree ordinance could have prevented the developers of the lot where the new medical center is being built from tearing out every tree on the property, including the ones outside the construction zone fence.