Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Uncharacteristic levels of community involvement

I voted this morning at 8:15 AM. I was still rubbing the sleep from my eyes, and my jeans were still damp from the knees down because I'm not very good at watering the garden when I'm semi-comatose. But there were a couple of tax and bond issues up that I was quite interested in.

"That was quick," said one of the voting officers when I gave my key card back to them. Which begs the question of how long it takes most people to answer three questions on a touch-screen computer voting machine.

I was up early because I had registered for an all-day tree pruning workshop offered by the Greensboro Better Hometown program. Apparently the city councilpeople have figured out that their tree husbandry has historically been a little shoddy--okay, really shockingly bad--and that they ought to do something about it instead of continuing to flush the tree budget down the drain. As far as I could tell, the workshop was organized primarily for the benefit of the three city employees to whom the bulk of the tree care duties falls. I'm guessing the general public was invited in order to help pay the ag extension arborist's speaking fee.

I have a geeky love of science seminars, plus I just bought a bunch of seedlings that will arrive in January and demand care that I don't know how to give, so I gladly shelled out 20 bucks to attend. It was well worth it. The arborist taught us how to shape trees when they're young so that they grow up to be healthy and less likely to rot or split. He taught how and where to cut so infection won't enter. He gave us hints on how to deal with mature trees that are already too large and screwed up to fully remediate. And finally, he took us on a walking tour of downtown, where we looked upon the city's trees with new eyes. The trees were a mess, I must say. We could only find one--a smallish willow oak--that we thought was acceptable. The rest all had "issues." Most had codominant stems (a weak structure that's basically a lawsuit waiting to happen--think large falling branch meets Mercedes-Benz). Several had been gouged by chainsaws and were probably rotting from the inside out. In many cases, otherwise acceptable young red maples had been planted near power lines. Their future was bleak: Before they could even begin to approach their full height of 90 feet, they'd be summarily topped by the power company. After a few examples of this, I could see despair in the eyes of the lady from the Better Hometown committee.

But on the bright side, I think the knowledge I gained will help us avoid comical and/or expensive and/or tragic mistakes on our own property. And the city should do better in the future, too.

Lest anyone think that $20 buys nothing more than a stack of PowerPoint photocopies and a slight sunburn, I should add that lunch was catered by a downtown meat-and-three. It was fried chicken, green beans, macaroni and cheese, and banana pudding. It's not my favorite local restaurant, but any soul food beats the heck out of a sack lunch (or the usual Rubber Conference Chicken).

The Better Hometown lady says there might be more of these seminars, depending on demand. I suggested that a tree planting workshop might be in order...sometime before mid-January!