I moved back to Spokane for the trees. Well, not only for the trees-family, housing, overall quality of life all factored in-but I never realized how important trees were to my daily peace of mind until a lived for a few years in Denver. The Mile-High City is tree deficient. Denver is built on high desert, has no naturally occurring trees and a big chunk of the ones planted in the last 100 years are dropping like flies to Dutch Elm Disease.

Call me a tree-hugger if you like, but I think trees make or break our outdoor experience in our region. Trees make loads of oxygen, provide habitat, and keep me from having to own an air conditioner in the summer.

City trees are especially crucial because they provide these benefits right where people live. Cutting down big, old, irreplaceable city trees is always justified by weak excuses: too hard to build around it; roots are messing with basement; sick of raking leaves; need to make the street bigger; it was going to die anyway.

The last two excuses are currently being invoked by the City of Spokane to take out some two-dozen trees on Bernard Street. Before you dismiss this as just a small South Hill problem, look out your window. Any street trees out there? Is your street in need of widening? If so I know some city traffic engineers that will be happy to remove your trees free of charge. In fact, Freya and Lincoln street trees could be next. But don’t worry, they’ll be replaced with some saplings that will provide you some shade in the year 2056.

These trees are being sacrificed in the name of “traffic flow.” Not to create anything useful, like new bike lanes-which we could really use-but just to make the streets wider. It makes you wonder who decides this stuff? Do they actually live near where these trees will be cut down, or are they just concerned with getting traffic out of town as fast as possible?

If our economic future depends on being a medium-sized metro area that offers a great quality of life, then we had better protect that quality. A big ‘ol maple tree with a galaxy of leaves adds a lot more to my day than a few more extra feet of asphalt.

 

 

Jon B. Snyder

 

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