Our mid-1980’s-era neighborhood is notable only because it contains smaller homes (under 1600 sf!!) under a beautiful canopy of large pines, oaks, and magnolia. Sterile expanse of wide-open lawn is kind of an anomaly, and we like it that way. Too bad 14 of those trees came down, in less than 3 hours, because the property-owner did not want to rake. Or hire any of the neighborhood kids to rake. Of course, pine straw and cones are actually a commodity, so having someone remove the (oh so unsightly!) natural fall for free would be so easy. We tried to stop it from happening, but the decision had been made. No amount of gentle persuasion was effective, even to save one.
If you have kids, and no parks nearby, lawns are great play surfaces. And lawns are super, if you play a lot of croquet, or lawn darts, or bocce, or football.
If you like to mow, water, fertilize, rake, and dose with herbicide (who wants WEEDS?) fungicide (who wants MUSHROOMS?) and pesticides (all bugs are evil, right?), then lawns are right for you! And if you like paying higher home cooling bills in the summer, and higher water bills for all that irrigating, and if you like your air (anti-)quality to be visibly POOR from your gas-powered mower…cough cough, then plant that lawn.
Now, we’re not saying that ALL lawns are bad, but that the removal of so many trees to create a monoculture of Centipede is bad, and just plain butt-ugly.
Removing those trees was a stupid decision, and here’s why. (in case the sarcasm above wasn’t clear enough.) First, for most people, the reason would be $$. Mature healthy trees are WORTH A LOT OF MONEY. In coastal NC, you can quantify this – $25 per square inch of caliper. (City of Wilmington Urban Forestry.) Trees provide shade, which lowers summer home cooling bills (especially if you have a dark roof…), and cools off hot pavement. Trees provide stormwater benefits as well – less runoff, less erosion, less flooding. Trees are good for air quality, removing dust and particulates, and absorbing CO2. Trees provide habitat for birds, mammals, insects, and kids.
And finally, TREES ARE BEAUTIFUL. At least, to most people. Why wouldn’t you do everything you can to hang on to your trees?
All the anguished calls and e-mails to kindred spirits, and detailed review of county codes couldn’t prevent the chainsaws. But for a little bit of firewood, all 14 of these trees were fed to the chipper. Maybe in their next life, those chips will cushion a playground.
We did make up for our lack of neighborly lobbying skills, though.
Yesterday, we closed the office and participated in a tree-planting that was held by the North Carolina Coastal Federation (http://www.nccoast.org/ ) up near Beaufort. If you have never participated in something like this, it’s definitely worth giving a try. We had a blast – meeting a bunch of like-minded people, getting kind of dirty, and replenishing our half-full glass of optimism. I don’t know how many trees we helped to plant, but I am absolutely sure that it was more than 14!
On our way out, under a clear blue sky, we saw harriers, egrets, herons, a sunbathing cottonmouth, and a bobcat, who ran alongside long enough for us to be awestruck.
Here are a few links to check out regarding the benefits and values of trees…(as well as the reduction of lawn.)