Gazette Guest Column: “The luxury of saving a single tree”

We enjoyed Chivas Sandage’s guest column in the March 15-16 Gazette. She writes:

The luxury of saving a single tree

…Through the years I’ve had relationships with several remarkable trees, green spaces and wooded areas. Fascinated by Julia Hill-Butterfly, I followed her work closely for years. In recent years, I had the chance to write as an advocate for the green space across from my apartment, a small wooded area willed to the historical society (for safekeeping) who sold out for their piece of gold to the local, well-landed gentry who managed to sell it once again for a profit. In the end, the community lost one of the last green spaces bordering downtown and a lovely stand of maples. Like the child who stopped that dinosaur of a bulldozer and challenged its driver, by volunteering my work as a writer, I’d tried to make a difference in my own small way…

I look forward to the day when I can live in my own home, know I won’t have to move unless I want to, and invest my time, resources and heart into local matters large and small – even a single maple…

See also:

Photo Essay: 10 Reasons People Like Trees Around Them; Will the Sustainable Northampton Plan Put Urban Trees at Risk?
around homes in Northampton’s built-up areas (where perhaps half the
population lives) may be threatened by proposals in the Sustainable Northampton Plan,
which encourages city officials to “implement ideas for maximizing
density on small lots” (p.14) and “consider amending zero lot line
single family home to eliminate 30′ side yard setback” (p.67).

If you walk down North Street, imagine most trees between houses gone
and replaced with a near-solid wall of housing. See the articles below,
and decide if that’s growth that’s smart, or growth that smarts…

“Planning for Trees” by Henry Arnold, Planning Commissioners Journal, January/February 1992
recent survey by the American Forestry Association of twenty American
cities found that, on average, only one tree is planted for every four

Our urban centers need to become more attractive to
help counter the continuation of a sprawl pattern of development. If
the appeal of low density, widely scattered development is derived from
the need to be closer to nature, then making trees an integral part of
the urban habitat will help make our town and city centers more
desirable places to live and work. It is profoundly important to see
this linkage between making cities and towns more “liveable” and
stemming the continued spread of scattered development across the

The Ecological Cities Project: Greenspace in “The Humane Metropolis”
metropolis (i.e., metro region or citistate) is considered green if it
fosters humans’ connections to the natural world — an idea Anne
Whiston Spirn promoted in her seminal 1984 book The Granite Garden.
Spirn rejected the idea — easily absorbed if one watches too many
“concrete jungle” films, or even televised nature documentaries —
that the natural world begins beyond the urban fringe. “Nature in the
city,” she wrote, “must be cultivated, like a garden, rather than
ignored or subdued.”

UMass Press: “Natural Land: Preserving and Funding Open Space”
Protecting open space is often about protecting what makes a community
special and unique… At the small-town or village scale, a forested
hillside or surrounding farmland helps create a unique sense of place.
Furthermore, preserving open space helps to create distinct edges that
stop the blurring of community boundaries that is characteristic of
urban sprawl. Defining what is unique about one’s community and
identifying places that are special to local residents is an important
part of the overall planning process (Hester 1990)…

Metro Portland’s Long Experience with Smart Growth: A Cautionary Tale
notion that potential homeowners would prefer to pay the higher cost of
high-density housing as an alternative to the traditional
home/yard/neighborhood environment style of raising families is wrong.
The percentage of families moving to the Portland area that buy or rent
within the UGB [Urban Growth Boundary] has fallen dramatically since
site restrictions were implemented…

Vancouver Sun: “Call it EcoDensity or EcoCity –either way it’s a hard sell”
Yaletown, almost 70 per cent of the city is single-family housing.
Vancouver, essentially, remains an urban suburb. And there is a reason
for this.

People love it.

They love the city’s
garden-like nature. They love the stability and social cohesion of a
single-family neighbourhood. They like having neighbours they know…

Seeing Like a State: Planning Gone Awry in the 20th Century
Cities tend to be complex organisms, Scott observes, so planners are constantly tempted to try to simplify their task:

Once the desire for comprehensive urban planning is
established, the logic of uniformity and regimentation is well-nigh
inexorable. Cost effectiveness contributes to this tendency… [E]very
concession to diversity is likely to entail a corresponding increase in
administrative time and budgetary cost… (p.141-142)

In Northampton, the simplification du jour appears to be a drive to segregate our open space to the periphery, while weakening greenspace preservation in the more urban districts where it is already scarce.