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COMMUNITY VOICE

Be smart about trees; learn to plant the right ones in the right places

Friday, May 3, 2013 - 12:01 am

Earth Day is behind us, and it got me to thinking. Fort Wayne and many other cities across the nation are Tree Cities USA. But what have trees ever done for us?

Oh, sure, there’s oxygen, fruit, paper, homes, civilization, blah, blah, blah. But it’s not enough anymore. Not in this 21st century economy.

So if we have to be Tree City, let’s make these trees work for us. Because sometimes trees aren’t all that great. Remember the Great Blackout of 2012? I’m still trying to forget! Two trees fell and ripped out power lines on our property. There was damage like that all over the city.

“I think I shall never see a poem as lovely as a tree.” Tell that to my friend, whose 60-foot hickory tree crashed into his roof. He didn’t have poems for that tree, unless poetry begins with *@##!*#!

So for all their obvious beauty, trees can be bothersome, too. They’re only useful when you use them right. Don’t plant trees too close to your sewage pipe. Or foundation. Or sidewalk, either. Did you know that any tree planted between the sidewalk and the street is city property? It’s part of the right-of-way. So remember if you plant the tree there, the city owns it.

For that matter, you’re not allowed to plant anything there unless you have permission from the city arborist. But if that tree lifts up the sidewalk, that’s your responsibility. You pay for the sidewalk repair.

Some other hints? Find out how tall your tree could be. Plant it at least that far away from a power line. The No. 1 pollution in rivers is sediment. So trees planted next to ditches, creeks and rivers will keep precious topsoil from washing away. They also provide shade; cooler waters are better for fish breeding.

Be green, but be smart, too. And it’s an American prejudice that “smart” has to equal “money.” But, hey, I’m American and kinda greedy, too. So how does the city make money with all its green-thumb goodwill?

Cut ’em down.

Not all of them. And not all at once. But the city could make a fortune tree harvesting. Why not make parks pull double-duty as tree farms?

Full-grown walnut, oak and cherry trees are worth thousands of dollars to mills. Poplars and pines grow even faster.

In an age of municipal debts and shrinking government services, cities need the kind of extra cash that taxpayers won’t/don’t/can’t give.

What’s wrong with a city making a little money? San Diego’s sewage powers a methane-fueled electric generator. They sell excess electricity to the national grid. Some states are selling extra prison space to other states’ overcrowded penal systems.

If you don’t like tree harvesting, how about orchards? Why not a county prison farm? Keep it organic, sell at a premium.

Even Johnny Appleseed was smart about this. What if he had planted hawthorns instead? History never would have remembered the delightful Johnny Hawthorn-seed. They’d remember That-Crazy-Jerk-Who-Ruined-My-Lawn.

So let’s be smart about trees. Plant the right ones in the right places.

But cut the right ones down, too. So a belated Happy Earth Day, everybody! Let’s make it pay.

Heath Shive is a resident of Fort Wayne.