Archive for Saturday, September 1, 2001

Time to say goodbye

September 1, 2001


Lawrence loves its trees, but sometimes you just have to say goodbye.

Lawrence traditionally has placed a high value on its trees.

We proudly fly a flag at Sixth and Massachusetts that declares Lawrence to be a "Tree City USA." People chained themselves to trees that had to be destroyed to make room for the Lawrence Riverfront Plaza, and the fate of a spreading elm in the 700 block of Rhode Island has triggered public demonstrations.

It now seems that nature has overridden the human decision regarding that elm tree and many others around Lawrence. The city has issued notices to property owners requiring them to remove about 100 victims of Dutch elm disease by the end of the year. Destroying the trees is the only way to stop the spread of the fungus.

Probably every owner of one of these trees regrets that they must be removed. As some people are doing about the tree on Rhode Island, they may be asking themselves whether the tree was unnecessarily stressed or whether some preventative treatment might have protected it from the Dutch elm fungus.

Unfortunately, that is water under the bridge. There is no effective treatment for Dutch elm disease. The trees that have it are a lost cause. All that can be done is to cut those trees down and destroy them so they don't spread their misfortune.

People who were around Lawrence in the 1950s and '60s saw the devastation of a Dutch elm epidemic that ravaged the city's elm tree population. Within the last year or two, many residents have had to remove pine trees infected by a contagious blight disease. It's sad to see them go, but there is no other way to protect other trees.

In some cases, Kansans have take extraordinary measures to preserve trees they see as historic. Council Grove, for instance, commemorates the signing of a treaty that opened the Santa Fe Trail at the Council Oak. The Post Office Oak served as an early delivery spot for messages on the trail, and Gen. George Custer and his troops once camped at the Custer Elm. These trees were trimmed, treated, filled with concrete and about everything else anyone could think of to keep them standing. Finally, there was nothing left but stumps, so the city built roofs over the historical sites.

None of the elm trees not even the one on Rhode Island probably warrants that sort of preservation effort. It's sad to see them go, but it's time to say goodbye. Maybe we all can honor the lost trees by planting a few new seedlings to replace them for generations to come.

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