The War On Trees

A year or two ago I was driving on Hixson Pike when I noticed there was something different about the familiar skyline near the old Red Food/BI Lo store in the 5400 block. I saw that two very large trees had been cut down. This was very noticeable as they were out by themselves near the road and as said, were very large. Sadly now there were just two large stumps, like scars on the ground. I was saddened as I had driven by these trees for over 30 years. First as a visitor to Chattanooga then when I was working patrol for the Chattanooga Police Department in that area. Then as a Detective, and later every day driving to and from work after I moved to Soddy Daisy. I had watched them transition from budding in the spring, to full leaf, through the color change in the fall and then as their leaves fell in late fall. I wondered if anyone else missed these stately giants? I was also curious why they were cut down right as a new grocery store “Earth Fare” was taking over the building where the old Bi-Lo grocery store had been. I thought that was terrible timing to be cutting down such large trees that were so visible near a store named “Earth Fare”. There was a large outdoor sign going up nearby but it appeared to be much higher than the trees. I felt that this might be a public relations issue for Earth Fare but apparently no one else cared or people were complacent as I was. I did not take the time to email or write a letter to the, Times-Free Press or the Earth Fare corporate office. I just accepted the sad event and went on about my life. This event did remind me of when I had read a letter either in the paper or online where a Hixson resident was lamenting the cutting down of trees on Hixson Pike. I mentally filed the issue away for another day.

I know what you’re thinking… well at least some of you probably. Has Mark gone “tree hugger”? Short answer: always have been kind of. I have always hated seeing areas of land cleared for subdivisions, shopping malls and other urban sprawl/development. I much prefer looking at a rolling field or a copse of trees over that sort of thing. Perhaps it’s the anecdotal Indian blood in me (still unproven by DNA). I have a friend who lives in North Chattanooga. There are several areas near her that have recently gone under the developer’s scalpel. Many trees have been cut down in the nearby Dartmouth Street and Knickerbocker area. She has wistfully complained about losing the beauty and shade of these trees. She wonders what effect the loss of these trees will have on water run off in the area. I also wonder what studies were done – if any, prior to the denuding of this area.

You may wonder what prompted this article. Recently I was driving on Highway 153 when I again noticed a big change in the landscape. Where there had been a natural barrier to the non-scenic view of the backside of the old Firestone building I could now see the “vista” of the Northgate parking lot and the Outback Steakhouse. I sadly realized a row of trees had been sacrificed for some reason there. Some of these trees were quite large and thus had been there for many years. Most if not all had survived the initial building of the mall in March, 1972 and the just short-of 48 years since but had now been mercilessly cut down. I wondered why. I got out to look and it does not appear the trees would interfere with the new construction going on there so I do not see the reason why the trees were destroyed. I thought the new school of thought in architecture/design was to have the building(s) “blend in” or soften the appearance by using vegetation, particularly trees. Perhaps the design team for the new buildings at the mall didn’t get that memo.

Another “de-treeing” that I notice was at Hixson High School by the home side bleachers. I used to run or walk the bleacher stairs there. There was a tree at the South end rear (top) of the bleachers that provided shade for about half of the bleachers. I had followed its growth as it finally started shading me in the brutal summer sun. There was another on that side just north of the press box that also put out shade for people who were crazy enough to be out there in the morning sun. Believe me, although limited, this shade was very welcome. One sad day I got there and saw the trees had been cut down. I just shook my head. As I hear every year my property taxes keep going up due to school expenses I guess I should have the right to inquire why “my” trees were executed. I haven’t taken the time.

Adding to my notice of the cutting of trees I have seen many subdivisions where most if not all of the trees in the developed area are cut down. In my own subdivision most yards do not have trees. Mine is one of the few that has trees in the front yard. I luckily have woods behind me. But even that sanctuary was attacked a few years ago when a driveway was cut in and a house built. However, thankfully these people only cut trees necessary to put the driveway and the house in. They did not clear off a yard. If only more people or planners would follow this model of development. However, another neighbor cut out a soccer field from the woods. Many trees, some very large, were cut and/or bulldozed down. Some hawk habitat was lost in that project.

Just the other day I was going to Erlanger East Hospital where I noticed two trees in the “median” at the entrance off Gunbarrel Road had been cut down. Again, I wondered why. So this tree attack is not confined to the Hixson area of Chattanooga.

I did a little research into the benefits of trees. Besides screening the view of mostly ugly buildings and giving people cool shade trees reduce smog, filter particulate matter which causes asthma, reduce the concentration of green house gases, muffle urban noise and filter drinking water in the soil. Just to name a few. Scientists state one person produces ten tens of carbon dioxide per year. A tree removes about one ton of CO2 per year so it takes ten trees just to counteract one person’s CO2 per year!

A huge reason I see to keep trees is the soothing mental effect on humans, probably animals as well. Studies have shown trees have a calming effect on people. In the spring they are a beautiful green and in the fall the changing color of the leaves provides an incredible natural color display. If you are simply building a home, planning a subdivision, mall or you are responsible for major urban planning take the trees into account. Don’t cut them if possible. My brother said he felt that developers should have to replant one half over the number that of the trees destroyed. Perhaps that’s a good formula. If you are about to cut trees in a public area please think about it. Many large trees are 60 to 100 years old. They cannot be quickly replaced. They may shield the area from view, or from being viewed, they may muffle sound or they may give a non-early rising stair climber like myself some much needed shade. Hey, if it’s as simple as that for a reason I’ll take it.

– Mark Haskins

Background music:
“Expectations” – Katie Pruitt
“Sara” – Fleetwood Mac
“Call It Love” – Poco
“Love Will Find A Way – Pablo Cruise
“Ebony Eyes” – Bob Welch
“Moonlight Fells Right” – Starbuck
“Deacon Blues” – Steely Dan