Missing the trees

More than a few people expressed sadness (and then anger) when they realized that the trees in the Town Park were cut down last week as part of the new Center for the Arts expansion. I am part of the sad group. Cutting down trees in the woods feels utilitarian. Harvesting a Christmas tree does not usually make people sad. Cutting these trees down was sort of like losing solid neighbors.

Many of those trees were planted as memorials to people who lived and died here. But they were trees that impacted all of us living here. The teenagers hung out beneath the canopy. The newbies used them between shifts to slack line and visitors would escape the sun at 9,000 feet and drink in their shade.

Having been to many meetings about the site I knew several would be moved to accommodate Big Blue. This felt different.

Crested Butte Parks and Recreation director Janna Hansen sent me an explanation of why they were cut down:

“There were six trees that the landscape architects had identified to spade and relocate. Upon discussion with long-time town staff members and local landscapers regarding the success rate of spading and relocating trees in Crested Butte, it was determined that the money would be better spent to purchase large trees with a one-year warranty rather than taking a risk on the replanted trees surviving.

“Parks and Rec saved all the plaques and have them stored at our shop. The Town plans to create a memorial wooded area on the eastern side of the park and reinstall the plaques after the new trees are planted. The Mary Yelenick plaque will also be reinstalled. Town code requires that for every tree that is removed it be replaced with equal diameter of new trees. Mundus Bishop, the landscape architect for this project, has the placement called out for each of these new trees on the landscape plan for this project. Community members are welcome to stop by Town Hall to review the BOZAR-approved site plans showing the locations of the trees to be planted. We are indeed a Tree City USA and the Town reports to the Arbor Day Foundation how many trees are planted and removed annually on public property,” Hansen explained.

The tree decision was simply made as part of the larger Center decision. It was not kept secret. I attended many of the review meetings and it was clear some of the trees would be impacted. We wrote in the paper that some of the trees would have to go away. If the people who are sad and angry about this had insisted through the process that the trees had to stay, the design might have been different. That didn’t happen. That’s the process. It does not make me any less sad. And of course, I’ll get over it.

When I responded to Janna that I appreciated her explanation but it still made me sad, she pointed out, “It is very hard to see beautiful trees cut down. It gives me hope to know that there are way more trees being planted than were originally there and in a few years it will really feel like a little forest.”

Fair. But not all trees are created equal and good mature neighbor trees mean more to us (and the environment and wildlife) than young trees not yet here.

Understand that change does not come without impact. Change is not automatically good or bad. There is a lot of change heading toward this small town right now.

—Mark Reaman

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