Try a ‘green for green’ investment

Nineteen trees lost, 184 trees planted.

That’s the forecast on the Bainbridge High School campus, on the essential eve of ground breaking for the new 200 classroom wing.

Make that 16 trees lost – it appears that three historic cherry trees in the way of construction will be plucked from the earth and moved to the Sakai Intermediate School campus. Despite the lateness of the season, preservationists hold out hope that the trees will take to new ground in a relocation slated to take place today.

While the somewhat tortured effort to save the cherries deserves kudos, school planners too should get some credit for a landscaping plan that will see lost campus trees restored at a ratio of nearly 12:1 – a good model, perhaps, as islanders try to strike a balance between an increasingly urbanized Winslow and the random greenery that beautifies our town.

A collateral model might be found across Puget Sound. Last fall, Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels proposed that the City of Seattle plant 649,000 new trees over the next 30 years; targeted areas would include not just parks and public rights of way, but also commercial and residential properties. The program, with a projected investment of at least $114 million, would seek to reverse the ongoing loss of green canopy in the Emerald City. Beyond the aesthetic appeal, backers hailed the proposal as a good step against global climate change, providing breathable air and delicious summertime shade while soaking up rainwater that would otherwise become storm runoff.

Given such examples so close at hand, what’s to prevent our own city from undertaking a similarly aggressive program? While our local debates over trees usually focuses on retention (no problem there), it’s an inherently here-and-now focus for what’s really a long-term concern. Trees we plant this year might take a while to grow into the landscape, but the alternative – not planting them at all – yields less reward still.

Suppose, for a moment, that the City of Bainbridge Island followed Seattle’s lead and proposed a vigorous campaign to promote a greener downtown – and backed it up with an investment of “green for green”? Suppose further that the city used its buying power to provide a free tree – good, healthy landscapers, not just seedlings – to anyone in Winslow willing to put one on in their yard? What would be a good, achievable, short-term goal for Winslow – 250 new trees planted in a year? Five hundred? One thousand? You can buy a pretty good tree for a hundred bucks or so, and we suspect the city could get a deal buying in bulk. A commitment of, say, $100,000 could swath Winslow in new greenery by next spring, an investment that would pay off handsomely over time. Fall planting season is just a summer away, just enough time to put a program together and scare up some funding.

Nobody wants to lose downtown trees, least of all the old and regal specimens that so often find themselves in the way of new buildings. A tree’s path to maturity is frustratingly slow, even as our own way through life seems painfully brisk. But what better gift for successive generations than a civic tree-planting campaign – a crusade – in Winslow?

It’s a cause the community could rally around. And it would take some sting out of losing those trees we know and treasure today.