In college I was a member of a student organization that protested the removal of trees on campus. Unfortunately, the protest happened after the trees had already been cut down. Some local folks, however, got it right yesterday by arriving on the scene before the damage was done. Here’s a snip from a Savannah Morning News story:
With signs saying “Save our Trees,” they garnered supportive beeps and thumbs up from passing motorists. The cherry picker moved a few blocks away and then out of sight. By 2 p.m. the protesters figured the trees were safe for the day.
“People are proud of the canopy,” Heimes said. “The trees were grossly misshapen by (Georgia Power) but they are oak trees and they provide shade. If they start here, where will it end?”
The chain of events that preceded the protest can be found here.
But why were the trees cut? The safety of motorists was the cited concern, from the Savannah Morning News story:
County Commission Chairman Pete Liakakis said county engineers will look at the project again but added that the trees’ removal appears to be a traffic safety issue.
“We have to do the things we can to reduce any accidents,” he said. “This I’m told will keep any accidents from happening.”
Are Chairman Liakakis’ people telling him the truth? Perhaps not, according to Dr. Kathleen Wolf, a University of Washington professor who was in town last month for events sponsored by the Savannah Tree Foundation. From “Study Finds Transportation Policy Regarding Trees Outdated,” an article published in the academic journal Forestry Source in August 2006.
“In my opinion,the transportation policy in regard to trees is based on outdated information,” said Kathleen Wolf, a social sciences researcher at the University of Washington’s College of Forest Resources and lead author of the study. “Studies [regarding the safety concerns of roadside trees] were conducted some decades ago in rural settings. But, according to the last census, nearly 80 percent of the US population now lives in urbanized areas.”
What difference does that make?
“Most of the tree crashes are occurring in rural areas and at high speeds,”she said. “The average crash speed involving trees is 52 miles per hour (mph), whereas the average speed in all crashes is 34 mph.” This is especially significant, Wolf added, in that most of the miles traveled in the United States are in urban areas.”
While it could be argued that Wilmington Island is not urban, it certainly isn’t rural. At any rate, if motorist safety is truly the goal, why not keep the trees and lower the speed limit?