I think that I shall never see
Trees provoke rage such as these
Trees planted with good intentions
By city crews with inmate assistance
Trees whose green boughs interfere
In Jasper’s downtown business air
A tree that may year-round wear
A nest of Christmas lights in her hair
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only the mayor loves these trees
With apologies to Joyce Kilmer, who penned the poem Trees much differently in 1913.
By Dan Pool
It seems those green trees recently relocated to our main drag are universally unpopular. It’s like the city had installed a Democratic presidential candidate on every corner with a microphone – that’s how poorly received the trees have been.
For each good comment on the arborvitae, there are at least 10 to the negative. (Though I will concede that I am in that minority who think they look pretty good.)
An initial poor acceptance is nothing new with work on Jasper’s streetscape. When Mayor John Weaver and council redid all the old cracked and crumbling sidewalks and replaced overhead utility poles with underground lines back in the 1990s, some merchants wailed that they had killed Jasper.
The furor at the time was that the brick accent pavers on sidewalks, not to mention some concessions for handicapped pedestrians, weren’t worth sacrificing the parking spots that were eliminated. People also feared that the wider sidewalks to accommodate foot traffic and trees, would interfere with traffic down the street.
The sentiment then being expressed was that Main Street was for driving, not for big brick sidewalks for trees.
The trees that have been installed since that time have never garnered widespread approval either. The choice of a locust species planted in a few of the spots drew particular criticism.
Grousing about Main Street’s appearance has ingrained itself as a tradition: we have Christmas Night of Lights, the Marble Festival parade and Tree Grumbling season here in Jasper.
Our new evergreen Emerald varieties of arborvitae are clearly one step up the leafy scale over the trees that were removed.
Like aging fashion models the last batch had outlived their beauty. They were misshapen, crooked, droopy and mostly leafless.
When the city crews first started cutting some of the trees this summer, I mentioned to the mayor the one in front of the Progress looked so bad even Charlie Brown would reject it, the mayor replied that one was slated to be left; it was the best they had.
There were a precious few that still resembled healthy trees, which, sad to say, is par for the course when it comes to street trees. It doesn’t take an expert to realize that trees have a tough time growing in a hole in the road, surrounded by asphalt. These new ones may not last long either, but consider that the city got them as a part of a large purchase from a defunct tree farm. Jasper spent about $3,500 on a field full of trees instead of the several hundred a piece street trees can bring. And the city has magnolias and hollies which may be used in other areas of the city.
Even if these trees fall to stress and difficulty in irrigation, the city isn’t out much. And the town could switch direction in the appearance.
Moving to the all-evergreen look caught people by surprise and it may grow on them or it may not. But it certainly gives a unique and distinctive look on Main Street.
And for people who really don’t like them, just wait around and we can all complain again when new ones are planted.
In the meantime, there’s no denying they will look Christmasy.