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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

water trucks tending street trees

Baltimore Messenger: "Hudson's Corner

Hudson's Corner

Kathy Hudson

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If the city tends to itself the way it does its trees, we're in trouble

Some say the way we care for our houseplants reflects the way we take care of ourselves. Taking that analogy further, I wonder if the way a city takes care of its trees reflects the way a city takes care of itself. If it is, we are not doing a very good job. And when I say "we," I am pointing not only at city government but also at us residential and corporate citizens.

Recently, I have lamented the dead saplings on Falls Road by the Poly-Western playing fields. This spring, these evenly spaced, well-staked new plantings seemed emblematic of a renewal of city shade trees and the beautification of two venerable high schools. As I wondered if the city had planted them, or if an enterprising group of environmentally aware students had, those saplings gave me hope. I never discovered the answer, and now many dead saplings seem emblematic of how we do not always care for what is ours.

Why would anyone plant a tree and not plan to water it during a dry season? And a dry season is what we have had this year. Dead trees dot the city.

When I think of other cities, I have water envy. I envy what I saw in Chicago: water trucks tending street trees and many containers of exquisite ornamental plantings. Then again, Chicago so values its natural resources that it prohibits building right next to the lakefront. You won't find kiosks littering Millennium Park or condos obliterating the view of Lake Michigan.

I also envy the water truck my Beechdale Road neighbor reported watering the Boise, Idaho, street plantings early one morning. If Chicago and Boise can do it, why can't we?

Granted, we have a huge city and miles of public greenspace. I understand public safety and education might take priority over trees, but after the real estate boom and with high property taxes, why we can't have a few more water trucks and a few more people tending trees and city plantings?

Watering these trees could eliminate the waste of time that occurs when saplings throughout the city die each summer.

Or could it be that our city is heading in a less "green" direction? The reported comments of city planners at a hearing for the Marianist property on Roland Avenue make me wonder. According to a June 14 Messenger article, city planners "were opposed to the trees and hedges (proposed by the developer) because they want a more urban design in keeping with the neighborhood."

Do city planners not know that the greenway through the center of Roland Park and the many Baltimore parks and greenways originally designed by the firm of Frederick Law Olmsted are what have made Roland Park and Baltimore so attractive and livable for generations?

Fortunately, the developer and the community are working together to maintain a tree canopy at the Marianist property.

But if the developer plants trees, someone must water them. With the current number of dead new trees on grassy medians in front of Roland Park houses, I worry for the future of newly planted trees.

Two questions remain: Why plant trees without plans to water them? And is how we care for city trees reflective of how we care for our city?

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