“I am not going to suggest that you look for projects where 15 of you can roll up your sleeves on a Saturday and grab a shovel. I am not going to suggest that you flex your fundraising muscles.”
This paraphrases the surprising end of a speech I recently gave at a Rotary club meeting. And it’s my advice to any of my readers who might agree with the Rotarians who invited me to discuss with them how they can make a difference in our community with trees.
When my wife heard this conclusion, she objected: “Look at all the trees you had a hand in planting in the years you have served on the shade tree commission. It’s made a real difference.” And she is right – to a degree – about the fact that I can’t count on my fingers the number of streets and parks that are becoming well-treed since I started my municipal work. But I can count the number on my fingers and toes. And, it wasn’t just I who worked. I have worked with at least ten other shade tree commissioners, and we hired out about half of the projects. The market value for our labors approaches six figures depending on how you count. But it’s still not nearly enough.
An example of how much work remains is as follows. My block has sides of 300 and 400 feet respectively. If the total work of the commissions with which I have served fully planted each of those streets – and “fully planted” is a big if – and we planted one tree per 25 feet of road, then we would have planted 56 trees. If we have successfully planted four of these blocks, we would have planted 216 trees. (If we have successfully planted 216 street trees, we haven’t planted much more than that.)
And if we have planted those 216 trees, then we have only planted the streets of 1/93 of Clarks Summit’s 1.6 square miles of land. So at this rate, I would have to serve just under 1,000 more years as a shade tree commissioner to just get through this little borough one time.
Of course, if we planted only 1 tree per 100 street feet, I would only have to serve with my fellow commissioners for 250 years to get the job done, but who wants to live on a street with only a handful of trees or shop in a similarly bleak downtown?
So a volunteer Saturday will only scratch the surface. To produce and maintain the value of living in a “leafy suburb” will require “top-down” approaches. I have concluded that if Rotarians will regularly attend borough council and shade tree meetings, it will be the first step in creating the political will necessary to replace the trees bequeathed to us by a previous municipal era.
Joshua Arp is an ISA-certified municipal specialist, Clarks Summit’s municipal arborist and an operator of an organic lawn and landscape maintenance business. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.