Think Big, Atlanta, or Go Home

Let’s imagine a different way of doing things.

In an earlier post, written while I was on vacation, I reported on a proposed development at the so-called Villa De Grip property, located near the intersection of North Highland Avenue and Elizabeth Street, across the street from the restaurants Sotto Sotto and Fritti.

Here’s a screenshot of the plan, showing the addition of a proposed new building on the corner of North Highland and Copenhill, as well as a new multistory parking deck at the rear of the property.

An aerial view of the property indicates clearly how much tree cover will be affected by the construction of the new building and parking deck:

Atlanta’s existing tree protection ordinance will almost certainly not stand in the way of this project. Consistent with the ordinance, the developers are proposing to replace these native, over-story tree species (water oak, sweet gum, winged elm, loblolly pine, etc.) mostly with non-native, smaller (trident maple) and mid-canopy species (e.g., Chinese elm). What they cannot replace, they will write a check for, according to a simple formula¹ that treats all trees the same, whether they’re trees that might live 30 years or trees that can live 200+ years.²

What might a different approach to tree and urban forest protection involve? Let’s imagine, via some ideas that other cities have already implemented and others that Atlanta tree advocates are presently discussing: Continue reading Think Big, Atlanta, or Go Home

Values

Delivered on September 22, 2017, at Trees Atlanta’s Canopy Conference. 

We have an excellent question to consider: “Can passion alone save trees?” As Neil mentioned, I’d like to make a short, preliminary comment now, and closer to the end of the session, offer a concrete suggestion.

Let me start by appealing to my other passion, namely, literature. “The Second Tree from the Corner” is the title of a wonderful short story by E. B. White, better known today as the author of the children’s classic book, Charlotte’s Web. At the conclusion of this particular story, a man has just left his psychiatrist’s office. At long last, he’s had an insight into the nature of his unhappiness, when he catches sight of a tree. Here’s how E. B. White describes it:

A small tree, rising between him and the light, stood there saturated with the evening, each gilt-edged leaf perfectly drunk with excellence and delicacy. [His] spine registered an ever so slight tremor as it picked up this natural disturbance in the lovely scene. “I want the second tree from the corner, just as it stands,” he said … And he felt a slow pride in realizing that what he wanted none could bestow, and that what he had none could take away.

Continue reading Values

Trees and Sidewalks

What the heck?

Yep, arborist Chris Hughes of Brookwood Tree Consulting was in the ‘hood yesterday. He was here at the invitation of Inman Park Tree Watch, in order to assess several trees in the path of our upcoming sidewalk renovation projects.

Here’s Chris with Peter Coyne of Oakview Landscape Construction, at the base of a lovely, mature American elm on Euclid Avenue. The goal? Get this sidewalk work done with minimal to no impact on nearby trees.

With guidance from Hughes and drawing on deep experience working around our trees in Inman Park, Coyne is able to pull all sorts of tricks from his sleeve: bridging over roots, skirting around them, and so on.

We’re so lucky to have professionals like Hughes and Coyne working in Inman Park! And we’re proud to have a thoughtful program in place to ensure that we do everything possible to protect the health and prolong the lives of our street trees.

In Which We Embark on Remarks about Parks

Community planner and parks guru Dee Merriam, late of the CDC’s National Center for Environmental Health, was in the ‘hood on September 14 to give a presentation for us at the Trolley Barn.  “Making People Places” was her title.

Knowledge was had by all.

And now we gotta think about stuff like this, which Dee pointed out on her tour of Inman Park: (1) visibility issues, (2) problems with access points, and (3) too few reasons to go to our parks.

So, would it be nice eventually to have a path with seating areas along the western edges of Springvale Park? With proper clearance of understory plants and some limbing up of trees, think how pleasant it could be to sit with a friend and look down into our little gem of a park.

We have so much maintenance to do! Who would know that behind this dense wall of green is a beautiful and historic park?

What safety-conscious person would venture into this Continue reading In Which We Embark on Remarks about Parks

Hey, Inman Park! How About a New Tree?

Each winter, Tree Watch plants 50 to 60 new trees in Inman Park. We plant in sidewalk planting strips, and we plant in homeowners’ yards, front or back. We’ll be planting again this winter, Saturday, January 13, beginning at 9:00 AM.

Do you want a new tree or trees for your home?

Please fill out the contact form below, and we’ll be in touch with you to set up a consultation. We’ll even bring along a landscape architect/arborist from Trees Atlanta. You can meet us at your home, show us your property, and discuss your preferences with us.

(Note: if your new tree happens to be covered by an existing contract that Trees Atlanta is fulfilling, it may be that you’ll incur no cost at all. Otherwise, you’ll be invited to make a donation to defray some of the expense.)

The Future of Atlanta’s Urban Forest: Fourth in a Series

The previous installment in this series asserted that in the interest of fairness, when it comes to trees, we Atlantans should commit to hearing each other out.

Quite understandably, people who live among, near, and under trees have strong feelings about them. We love and fear them. They fill us with joy and exasperation. We value them for themselves alone; we value them for what they do for us; or maybe we don’t value them at all. Trees are an important aspect of what makes our city livable, many firmly believe; others worry that trees stand in the way of Atlanta ever becoming a “great” city, e.g., by acting as an impediment to achieving the population density typical of such places.

Fairness means that everyone who wants to have a say should have that opportunity, and what they say should be met with open minds and hearts.

The foregoing does not mean, however, that every opinion is equally valid.

On the contrary.

And here again fairness is key. Some visions of the future Atlanta are going to be better than others because they come closer to a perfect balancing of all the many interests present in a major city like ours.

What interests should be taken into account? How do we recognize the moment when we’ve balanced them as well as we possibly can? These are questions for another day (and for smarter minds, too).

For the present, it’s enough to say this.  On this topic, fairness is impossible of achievement without acceptance of the fact that you “own” a tree only in the loosest sense of the word.

Why is that true? It’s true in the same sense that you cannot be permitted to “own” the air my children breathe or the water they drink. Or for that matter, the air and water that my great-grandchildren will one day breathe and drink.

Living as we do in a city, with responsibilities to each other and to future generations, we must give up the notion that we can do exactly as we please.

You can’t. You can’t do exactly as you please — in some cases, that’s going to be true no matter what price you’re able and willing to pay.

“Your” trees are “my” trees, too, after all. It’s only fair that I have a say in their fate, as you do in the fate of mine. Right?

The Future of Atlanta’s Urban Forest: Third in a Series

Quick! Which one of these is true?

  • Tree are large, woody plants that (for pennies on the dollar) provide Atlanta with essential ecological goods and services, for which we would otherwise have to use precious tax money.
  • Trees are living organisms in their own right, and they have been our constant companions on this planet throughout human history. Their presence everywhere among us in this forested city is a daily source of inspiration and sense of wellbeing. Our lives are immeasurably enhanced by trees.
  • Trees are fine and all that, but no tree is going to offer me a decent job, keep a roof over my head, or make sure I have access to healthcare. Honestly? A dollar spent on trees is a dollar not spent on far more urgent priorities. Can we talk about transit and affordable housing now?
  • Trees frighten me. They fall and kill people. I don’t think I should have to be afraid in my own house every time a thunderstorm rolls through Atlanta.
  • Trees! Oh la de da. Is this a garden club meeting? What makes a city a place where people want to live is other people. Enough with all this talk about trees! Music festivals, the arts, pedestrian-friendly streets, events that bring the entire city together — if we want a vibrant Atlanta, a city that can be mentioned in the same breath as New York or Los Angeles, we need to invest in people. 

Continue reading The Future of Atlanta’s Urban Forest: Third in a Series

The Future of Atlanta’s Urban Forest: Second in a Series

Atlanta is a city in a forest.

That’s more than a tagline. Among major U.S. cities, Atlanta — the city proper, that is, excluding  the suburbs for present purposes — has the most tree cover of all, at just under 50 percent.

Keep in mind, however, that not so very long ago, our urban forest was much, much larger and denser.  Below is a comparison of metro Atlanta’s tree cover over time, from 1974 to 1996. (The city limits appear in red.) It’s stunning, isn’t it? Continue reading The Future of Atlanta’s Urban Forest: Second in a Series