Last week my mother introduced me to the first two stanzas of Joyce Kilmer’s famous poem, “Trees,” a poem she memorized as a child and has not recited since. The words slipped out when we came upon one of the last remaining trees along a favorite riverbank now defined by stumps. Raw, ravaged stumps.
For the almost-six years Mother has lived in Holland, she and I have walked arm-in-arm along Window on the Waterfront, delighting in the melodies of the robins, the chirping of the cardinals; the tweeting of red-winged blackbirds. We have been entertained by the schizophrenic soaring of the swallows, the dashing hop of the gray, black, and brown squirrels, the families of swan, geese and ducks seeking safety among the shadows of the trees and brush along the shore.
Window on the Waterfront, a park easily accessible to the elderly, was unique in its view of water and wildlife. Now that uniqueness is gone—along with the robins, chickadees, cardinals, swallows, and squirrels. Along with the brush that helped filter phosphorous-rich runoff flowing into an already impaired river. Along with the trees that provide the easiest solution to the increasing concentration of greenhouse gases; trees, I was told by the city’s forestry department, that were “no good anyway.”
I was told people wanted a better view of the water—a view easily available at nearby Kollen Park and the Heinz Riverfront Walkway. What people? How many? What about us regulars? Who didn’t complain but also didn’t know the city was contemplating such a change? What was the process used to drastically alter the experience of all people enjoying the park? And how does this reflect the city’s commitment to engaging citizens in “Green Thinking and Action?”
Mother remembered the lines of the first two stanzas of Kilmer’s poem. We suggest the city of Holland remember the last line, “But only God can make a tree,” before it allows its staff to take a chain saw to the trees in our community. We suggest the city replant “good” trees this autumn along at least a portion of the riverfront, so the park meets the needs of all people in the community. We are happy to donate one of the trees.
to my mother, who co-signed this letter to the editor to the Holland Sentinel and on whose arm, I have paused to admire the gifts of nature . . . especially the trees.
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