It is fortunate that the Larchmont sidewalk project has ground to a halt. Maybe now the public can weigh in and the project can be looked at with some sanity.
Larchmont, which prides itself as having been named a “Tree City USA” by the National Arbor Day Foundation for more than 30 years, and which even flies a Tree City flag, has totally blown it by taking down stately 50 plus year old trees.
Mayor Anne McAndrews is quoted in the Journal News as saying that removing the trees was necessary to put in the new sidewalks because ‘It’s hard to build sidewalks around these trees…I understand that it’s a shock to see the place after these trees have come down and before new ones have been planted. But it’s going to look beautiful in the end.’ As government quotes go, that is right up there with the famous one from the Vietnam War, “We had to destroy the village in order to save it.” Even if the trees are replaced, it will be with skinny saplings and we will not have large spreading trees like the ones which are being cut down until our children are long grown.
If it is hard to build sidewalks around the trees, so what? As Phyllis McGinley wrote in her famous 1951 paean to Larchmont “I Know A Village”,
The streets are named from trees. They edge
Past random houses, safely fenced
With paling or with privet hedge
That bicycles can lean against.
And when the roots of maples heave
The solid pavements up that bound them.
Strollers on sidewalks give them leave
To thrust and pick a way around them.
Part of the beauty and charm of Larchmont is that the trees come first, and in exchange for the beauty and joy they bring, we build around them. Tree roots in the sidewalk are not an impediment, but are instead, as Joyce Kilmer, another Larchmont poet so wonderfully sung in his 1914 poem “Trees”,
I THINK that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;
I am sure that Larchmont’s residents, merchants, and visitors would much rather see stately trees growing into the ground’s “sweet flowing breast” than sterile urban sidewalks. As Kilmer wrote, “only God can make a tree.” Let’s not destroy His work because of some inconvenience.
Robert S. Herbst