Sounds like the twisted premise of a “Simpsons” episode in which the greedy township shuns common sense, chops down big, old trees to provide a view of racecars in blurry action…and by show’s end, everyone sunburned and sorry, we all learn an eco-friendly, tree-worshipful lesson. Grand Prix organizers are right now in the process of removing 50 trees along the September race course of West Pratt and Light Streets, fewer than Grand Prix officials wanted to fell, all to improve the sight line. More than 1600 residents have signed a petition to halt the process.
According to Timothy B. Wheeler’s story in The Sun yesterday, the race’s assistant manager was originally quoted as saying that he planned to remove 136 trees before the race. Beth Strommen, director of the city’s Office of Sustainability, promised that won’t happen–50 max–and said she couldn’t account for the released misinformation. She also explained that race organizers have pledged to plant 59 new trees along the race corridor, and 135 elsewhere downtown. City officials have claimed “the trees to be planted by the Grand Prix over the next year would triple the leafy coverage of downtown.”
But tree-cutting critics argue quite logically that new trees won’t provide the benefits of the mature trees we’ve lost. They also complain the race’s already active lumberjacks haven’t upheld the city’s forest conservation code.
The city has signed on to host the Grand Prix for five years, during which time race organizers have supposedly pledged to water and maintain the incoming red maples, sycamores, and crape myrtles, many of which will start as 18- to 20-feet-high entities, not mere saplings. But we’re saddened by the loss of the old trees, some of them confirmed to be “big and healthy.” The city may have signed on for the exhaust-puffing car race, we’re signing that petition.