“I speak for the trees. I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues.”
-The Lorax, Dr. Seuss, 1972
This is the problem with the mindset out there that government will take care of everything. And indeed, to its defense; many things may be accomplished – but often the best laid plans will eventually go awry because no body knows about it!
The oft repeated, “I never knew about it” may be without excuse but that is assuming that someone can “find” the information or even have enough knowledge that will motivate them to go ‘looking’ in the first place.
So much effort was expended by the Newburyport Tree Committee to get an updated Tree Ordinance passed. They established a Friends of the Tree Committee, www.newburyport-trees.com, to help educate the public by posting suggested lists of trees to be planted and those to be avoided that could damage the sidewalks or are unsafe in their growth pattern. They publicized to our community and received generous donations and the public was glad that tax money was going for new trees through the CPA funds. They lobbied vigorously for an arborist and championed an ordinance to empower the tree warden (Andrew Lafferty) to tackle our street trees. They worked aggressively to have the city council and Mayor to create a tree commission that could monitor this huge arborist task.
They were wildly successful for indeed the need was great. Large amounts of our trees were damaged by vicious cutting by the utility companies or diseased from neglect.
But the website is gone. The list of good and bad trees were excised out of the old ordinance. The tree commission or its members can’t be found posted on the city website; the “list” is buried so deep in the city’s archives with little explanation other than the Latin names. The city tree plan is somewhere in Mr. Lafferty’s file cabinets and not online. (Assuming that it actually exists). There is no website location for the commission and no publicity.
Oh yes, they have been busy – planting trees, establishing a tree nursery out by the new stump dump, etc. But what they fail to understand; the general abutter isn’t going to be mindful of the trees on the sidewalks. They won’t be motivated to take care of them and the tree warden doesn’t have the resources to monitor the entire city. It won’t be long before the average citizen just sticks a tree in by what they “like” or totally ignores the condition of the plants since they are the “city’s” responsibility. They may harm the trees by not giving them enough space or irrigation to grow properly; or prune them arbitrarily and thus invite more disease.
Leaving the trees to a faceless bureaucracy and an overworked city employee will not get the community to be engaged and it won’t be long before the old problems with the trees will begin to crop up again. Worse, when the tree commission looks for more money; the public and the politicians will have a deaf ear.
Let’s leave it here with a few easy solutions. Create a website (not even mentioned in their agenda meetings!) so the citizens and taxpayer are engaged. Promote, promote and promote using social media so the public is informed. And make it easy for contact so the tree commission and the tree warden can be reached for feedback.
If they don’t; the need will be forgotten and the whole bureaucracy will wither and die.
And our city desperately needs the Tree Commission.