This was Urban Green’s first community engagement project. Along with many other members of the Oak Lodge area, we had become alarmed by the steady loss of many of our largest and most beautiful trees. The majority of these were being lost to infill development, but not all. Some people cut down trees much older than their grandparents just to build a fence that might last 10 to 15 years. Others didn’t like needles and leaves falling on their cars. But no matter the reason, the result was (and still is) a steady loss of our urban tree canopy.
On the whole, this was not an entirely successful project. The County planning staff and at least some Commissioners believed (and still do, based on the evidence) that developers have more rights than either the trees or the other members of the community. So over the course of the nearly 5 years that this project progressed, the County’s response to overwhelming community support for protecting our trees with a reasonable set of rules was to delay what little in the way of public process they allowed, and marginalize those who were advocating for conservative values and the preservation of our neighborhood habitat and ecosystems.
For Urban Green, the ultimate failure to win an ordinance that would have any impact at all on the loss of our trees was a wake-up call, and in the end, a good learning experience. Ultimately it set the stage for our later successes. And one of the most important outcomes of our own work was the development of a large group of community supporters of public policy that would serve to protect and preserve our place – our community – against the predations of the greedy and unmindful. That group of people and the work they do every day is still vitally important, because the predation has scarcely slowed down, in spite of the economic downturn in the interim.