The Power of Trees

Suzy Latare is chairwoman of the Warrensburg Tree Board.

“The Man Who Planted Trees” is one of those poignant animated shorts that linger in your memory like an old friend – an easy conversation starter and a tribute to the seemingly uncommon restorative nature of people.

It’s the story of a shepherd who plants acorns, one by one, until a once barren, dry and depopulated French countryside becomes a welcoming forest with streams, wildlife and, eventually, people.

Warrensburg doesn’t quite match the desolate region restored by the fictional Elzéard Bouffier, but something uplifting is happening in city government.

It’s the Tree Board. And they understand that without trees, a city and its streets are transformed for the worst.

The Tree Board marks its second anniversary Jan. 28, just in time for the launch of its most ambitious project yet – taking inventory and recording the condition of the trees along city streets within the right-of-way. The city is now taking bids for the work.

Recently, I’ve been at odds with the city’s lack of vision for resisting tax incentives to assist new development. However, the city is demonstrating incredible vision for its support of progressive people who care about trees.

And the Tree Board’s chairwoman, Suzy Latare, isn’t afraid to speak up in favor of new development while extolling the virtues of trees and a healthy ecosystem.

“I love the world of small business sustainability,” she said. “I’m not interested in we are right, you are wrong. We need businesses to be successful just as much as we need our air to be clean. So, how do we do that responsibly? Environmentalists spend money at businesses just like anybody else.”

The way to do that responsibly is to plan for it. The Tree Board’s mission is to basically serve as a clearinghouse for all things tree related. More importantly, the board is there to help people make informed choices about the right trees to plant, which ones to avoid and how to properly care for them.

Ultimately, the board is creating a tree management plan to outline how the city should manage its leafy assets. The upcoming inventory project is one step toward that goal.

“Just like we have a plan for streets, curbs and sidewalks, having a tree management plan is about managing the green infrastructure of the city,” Latare said. “We have to have good quality streets and sidewalks for our residents but also for our businesses and for our visitors, and the same thing goes for our green infrastructure.”

Trees are valuable assets to any community. Trees slow the speed of rain and erosion. They create shade and make outdoor shopping centers more attractive, especially historic downtown areas. In the summer, the leaves can dampen noise. Trees provide habitat, they clean the air and they are simply pleasing to have around.

This inventory of trees sounds mundane, but it’s important. If you don’t know what you have, you don’t know what you could lose or what you might gain.

Eventually, Latare said she hopes the board could establish a training program for volunteers. The idea is to have the volunteers use hand-tools to trim city trees to keep them healthy and strong. It sure beats waiting until a problem escalates and the fix requires chainsaws.

This first phase of the inventory project encompasses a quarter to half of the town. It centers on downtown, radiating from Water to Mitchell streets, including parts of Broad Street and Montserrat Park Road; south to Hamilton and north to Young Street.

A Department of Conservation matching grant funds 75 percent of the more than $13,300 project. The city’s on the hook for $1,700. That’s petty cash for such a valuable plan.

The Tree Board does not have a website yet, but Latare encourages anyone who wants more information to call her at (660) 864-1387. The board meets at 4 p.m. on the fourth Tuesday of the month at the Warrensburg Community Center.

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  1. #1 by Earney Burchard on January 17, 2012 - 12:40 pm

    I like this idea a lot.

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