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Editorial: I Never Saw A Poem Lovely As A Tree

Joyce Kilmer wrote a poem we learned in high school, saying something like, “I never saw a poem as lovely as a tree...” that ended... “only God can make a tree.”

Listening to the Town of Oyster Bay hearing on amending their tree ordinance we noted that no one was mentioning that trees are more than a landscape addition and/or problem. They are living machines that give us oxygen. We plant them to keep the planet alive and filled with life-giving oxygen. Before the planet could thrive it needed that cushion of oxygen to keep the sun from burning us to a crisp.

In cutting down trees we are already trying our best to challenge the atmosphere and encourage global warming.

Trees really need a little respect.

The Oyster Bay/Cold Spring Harbor Protection Committee information states that in addition to providing habitat for terrestrial and aquatic wildlife  (birds, squirrels, wild turkeys, owls, sparrows, and visiting birds traveling along the Atlantic Flyway); watershed forest cover (trees) also reduces storm water runoff and flooding, (by catching rainwater on its leaves and slowing its fall to prevent flooding. It also drinks in the excess water.) It improves regional air quality (have you stepped out after a heavy rainfall and smelled the negative-ion charged air?), reduces stream and channel erosion, improves soil and water quality, and reduces summer air and water temperatures according to the USDA Forest Service, 2005.

Joyce Kilmer said it more poetically. His contributions as a poet are honored in the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest located in the western part of Graham County, in North Carolina. According to their website, the memorial forest is an outstanding example of a hardwood forest — a forest characterized by rich, thick soils; abundant moisture; and a variety of flora. In 1935, the regional forester wrote the Chief of the Forest Service that the forest was one of the “very few remaining tracts of virgin hardwood in the Appalachians...(and) we ought to buy it to preserve some of the forest original growth in the Appalachians.”

It states that: In 1936, the Forest Service bought 13,055 acres for the lofty sum of $28 per acre (at a time when most land was going for $3 to $4 per acre). While most of the surrounding land was logged, the area around Little Santeetlah Creek was spared — protected by a recognition of its uniqueness and the drastic drop of lumber prices after the “crash of ‘29.”

A walk through Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest is a journey back in time through a magnificent forest with towering trees as old as 400 years. Some enormous yellow poplars are over 20 feet in circumference and stand 100 feet tall. The floor is carpeted with a garden of wildflowers, ferns and moss-covered logs from fallen giants.

Veterans of the Foreign Wars asked the government to set aside a fitting stand of trees to serve as a living memorial to Joyce Kilmer, who was killed in action during World War I. Although Kilmer was both a soldier and a poet, he is most remembered for his poetry about common, beautiful things in nature. Mr. Kilmer’s best known poem is Trees.

“I think that I shall never see / A poem lovely as a tree....”

The Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest is aware that trees do have a set lifespan and mentions it on their website, with advice when entering the area.

It mentions that the huge trees are very old; some are dying, creating the potential for falling limbs and trees. Because the forest is in a designated wilderness, dead trees are not removed. They suggest visitors follow several tips for their safety and the health of the forest:

• Stay out of the memorial forest on windy days or after a snowfall or ice storm when branches and trees are

more likely to fall.

• Be alert! Glance overhead frequently and don’t linger under dead and dying trees.

• Stay on the trail to avoid trampling the wildflowers and ferns and to prevent additional damage to the roots of these giant trees.

• Leave all plants for the others to enjoy.

• No plants, living or dead, may be cut or removed.

We only mention their comments as an indication that we are aware of the concern of people about the potential of harm from falling trees. A woman was killed in Oyster Bay when her car was hit by a falling tree. There are dangers to be watched.

But all in all, there are dangers all around us, we just have to take care and be aware, as the people at the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest mentioned.

Life has it challenges and we do have to find a balance, as Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto said at the town board meeting. There will be another meeting on Sept. 4 to further discuss the tree ordinance. Do try to attend and add your knowledge to the discussion. The meetings start at 10 a.m., please sign in at the town clerk’s desk in the front of the auditorium if you intend to speak.