There are signs as you come into town proclaiming that our city is a “Tree City USA.” In order to get that certification a city has to plant more trees than it cuts down. Who actually counts the trees planted and the trees cut down is beyond me. There is no doubt that in order for our society to go on the way it’s going Nature has to be controlled. A place for everything and everything in it’s place. We simply cannot have Nature growing where it’s not supposed to.
Last fall some kids built a lean-to in the woods along the river. They built by leaning sticks and branches they found on the forest floor against a tree trunk. It was a crude shelter, but beautiful. They built it, they loved it, they were proud of it. A homeless man found it and spent a few nights in it. When the city found out about it they sent the police in to run the man off. They took the shelter apart by removing all the branches and scattering them back down on the forest floor where they came from. Because that’s what a Tree City does, right? It protects the trees.
But that’s not what actually happened. What Tree City USA actually did was cut the tree that they had leaned their branches against down. Ha! Take that kids. Take that thou homeless man. Can’t build a shelter against a tree if there’s no tree there, can you? I don’t think so, Tim.
Now, as I ride along the river and the woods surrounding it I see more and more trees cut down. Nearly as many, it sometimes seems, as there are still growing. They are thinning the forest to keep it healthy, so the city claims. Nature forgot to take that forestry management course offered by CSU. But what they are actually doing is thinning the forest so a homeless man can’t hide in it.
There is a small cluster of trees next to the Salvation Army. Some homeless folk made their camp there last summer. It gave them a little shade, a little respite from the heat. Tree City USA found their camp. What did they do? They cut the trees down. Just showed up in the middle of the day with their chainsaws and took care of business. The branches are still lying there to this day as a reminder of what happens when a homeless man sleeps under a tree.
Just off the Spring Creek Trail there is a young Willow forest. It’s thick with shoots, lots of medium sized trees, and a few mature ones. It has, for the past few years, been a harbor and haven for homeless people. Every so often the police would show up and run everyone off, every so often people would return and go back to living there. But Robin Hood has no place in this town. What did Tree City USA do? They cut the trees down. Went in there with chainsaws and bulldozers and razed the forest to the ground. The Sheriff of Nothingham Town wins again. Robin Hood gets on his bike and rides out of town. When he gets to the edge he stops to shake off the dust of his feet. Right beside him is a sign which reads Welcome to Fort Collins, CO. A Tree City USA.