Sunday, March 4, 2012
...the Forest for the Trees...
John McCoy, Columbia Association Watershed Manager, is a man with a mission. He is charged to reduce run-off and he is willing to employ a variety of methods to make it happen. One of those ways is through the planting of trees. Lots of them. The fact that CA can use grant money to pay for these trees is an added incentive. Many other methods for reducing run-off are costly.
The Village of Oakland Mills has some lovely Open Spaces just perfect for homing a good portion of these free trees. In some cases, volunteers are willing to do the planting. It seems like a win-win for Columbia, our environment, and the Chesapeake Bay, doesn't it? There's just one problem.
That land belongs to the citizens of Columbia (Oakland Mills) and they are using it. Most of the areas designated for tree planting are used in active recreation by families and children. In some cases the lack of trees in a given area provides an openness for walkers on neighborhood paths, a feeling of safety that encourages frequent use. Turn-out for an informational session by Mr. McCoy was surprisingly large. At least, I think it surprised Mr. McCoy.
To be perfectly clear, not everyone there opposed the planting of the trees. In addition, some suggested other places that they believed would make more sense, and interfere less with the neighborhood. Mr. McCoy, for his part, felt that people didn't have a true appreciation for the adventures their children could have playing in the woods. Although I didn't say anything at the time, our own family experience with a six year old daughter contracting Lyme Disease meningitis makes the thought of playing in the woods a nightmarish prospect. But I digress.
I don't see anyone as a Bad Guy in this. But I do see a rather simple-minded approach to the plan. To me it comes across like this, "We need to Plant Trees. You have Big Space. Poof--Done!" Mr. McCoy said, rather testily, I thought, "This plan was done by an environmentalist, not a landscape architect." What seemed to elude him was: a clear understanding of the neighborhood, the history of agreements made concerning the space, and a real knowledge of how this land is being used today.
As far as I am concerned, no plan concerning the planting of these trees could be successful in the absence of all three. Mr.McCoy is an intelligent man. If, in fact, he does possess this knowledge, he needs to do a much better job of showing it to the stakeholders. If CA is us, then these are the folks he needs to be working with, and not just talking at, as we move forward.
The meeting was an excellent start. I look forward to a more collaborative future.