Bad News Blossoming

So, you think we have issues with trees and far-away bureaucrats telling us what to do to them. Pity the poor souls in Washington, D.C., the homeland of bossy bureaucrats who are facing another attack on Mother Nature’s offspring.

            Here’s the bad news. The National Park Service plans to take the chainsaw to 158 of the iconic cherry trees that stand tall between the Potomac River and the National Mall. In total, 300 trees of various species will be removed.

            Over 1,500,000 visitors from all over the world come to Washington every year – according to the tourist brochures – to be “entranced by the delicate pale pink blossoms that visitors have enjoyed for more than a century.”

            If you haven’t made your reservations yet for the National Cherry Blossom Festival, you’re too late. Peak bloom came early this year, and the Mall will soon have construction fencing surrounding the casualties for up to two years.

            The reason for this surgery is that the retaining wall along the Tidal Basin is crumbling and must be replaced to the tune of $114,000,000 dollars. Photos of the wall bear a striking resemblance to our own Holmes wharf. Experts say, if the repairs are not made, Washington will become a swamp. What? I thought Washington was already a swamp. But I digress.

            One of the trees to be cut down is the iconic “Stumpy,” a small, hollow, ugly remnant with one or two branches that still bloom. Stumpy’s demise has been all over the national news recently, but in case you missed it, the tree was the darling of social media back in 2020 because it has survived numerous storms and floods. Unlike the other trees on death row, Stumpy will be replaced by a “baby tree” in the same spot. Small comfort to its fans.

            All of this is being done without consulting the district’s residents; after all, the Mall is their backyard (and ours). One wonders what George Washington, the expert on cutting down cherry trees, would think. Is it possible that Stumpy is the very stump that old George famously chopped down? Not likely. These cherry trees were gifted to the United States by Japan in 1912. George was long gone by then.

            There is some good news, however. The National Arboretum promises to take cuttings from the tree and clone a new one which will be planted somewhere on the Mall. Whether it will be hollow and ugly when it matures in 20 years remains to be seen.

            Rest assured the other sacrificial trees will be replaced by 275 new saplings. Their predecessors will be ground into mulch and spread around, preserving the historic area as hallowed ground. Maybe a sharp entrepreneur could buy the mulch, package it, and sell it as souvenirs. Just a thought. Anyway, there is more good news. There are 3,800 cherry trees around the Mall, so what’s a few missing trees among friends?

            And there is still more good news. You might have guessed that the existing walking trail (a sidewalk?) will be widened after the trees are removed during the renovation.

            The National Park Service is on a roll. They also plan to cut down 1,200 trees in Rock Creek Park, also in the District. According to a group opposed to the plan, the 8 acres in question “provides significant ecosystem services and habitat to visitors and wildlife.” This area of the District has been called the “Lungs of D.C.” The removal of the trees will allow the Park Service to … wait for it … to rehabilitate a golf course!

            Editor’s note: Mattapoisett resident Dick Morgado is an artist and retired newspaper columnist whose musings are, after some years, back in The Wanderer under the subtitle “Thoughts on ….” Morgado’s opinions have also appeared for many years in daily newspapers around Boston.

Thoughts on…

By Dick Morgado

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