March 20, 2007

Editorial -- Don't ax, do tell

Redmond’s looking a little less green nowadays. Of course, at this time of year green is a precious commodity anyway, unless you count the gray-green of the weedy junipers. But this last year has seen an alarming number of trees going under the ax – real trees that actually provide shade and a tranquil ambience.

Just two weeks ago Redmond lost the row of towering cottonwoods on the grassy swath between Fred Meyer and Highway 97. Once bordering the creek-like canal, giving the area a pocket-park air, the trees had to give way to the flood of road construction underway. When all is said and done that area will be ground zero for the reconnection of 5th/6th streets with Canal Boulevard. Just across the highway the former Ray Johnson Park site has been nearly stripped of trees to make way for the Highway 97 reroute.

All of these road projects are good things for Redmond and the region in general – no argument. But it seems a shame that they, and the myriad of commercial and residential developments underway, have to come at the expense of the one thing that every desert city needs more of – trees.

It seems that Redmond’s non-native trees fall into two categories: those planted in the last 20 years in newer neighborhoods and downtown streets, and more substantial trees planted in the middle of the last century or before. There don’t seem to be a lot of midlife trees in town and the older ones appear to be hitting the dirt in alarming numbers.

It’s unlikely that our town will stop its escalating growth anytime soon, so wishing that less office buildings, roadways, and homes are built to save some trees is wasted effort. But there’s no reason we can’t be more proactive in replacing all the trees dying for progress.

Would it be so crazy to require every business that takes out a mature tree or two to replant just as many or more after construction is done? How about developers who cut 10 old aspens for a new subdivision? Make ‘em plant 20 more when they are through.

On the other side of the Cascades where water -- and wetlands -- are plentiful the buzzword is mitigation. Every landowner with 20 acres of marsh or even a low spot in their backyard that fills with water every winter is required to compensate for any damage they do in the name of development. If they want to fill that boggy spot in their yard, for instance, they are required to build or enhance a wetland elsewhere.

Over there wetlands are considered vital environmental habitat and imperative for drainage from the overabundance of water that comes from the skies or flooding creeks. Here, trees are the key to temperature control, fighting air pollution, and overall quality of life.

Of course, a new zeal in tree planting in Redmond isn’t going to help most of us much. By the time they reach maturity we may be gone or living elsewhere. But our children will thank us and our grandchildren and all those who come later and wonder at how wise we were to keep Redmond green.

No comments: