Letus Guard Our Trees
Aspeech given to the Saugatuck Woman's Club, probably in the 1930's, by Edith
Before comingto the heart of our subject, may I tell you a new "Tale of TwoCities" because it is appropriate?
The first cityis
But what of
What happenedto the beautiful landscape? It is a story of greed and selfishness andstupidity. Those who should have fought to save the natural beauty, let it fallinto the hands of contractors who cut down the oaks and beeches, hemlocks anddogwoods, leveled the ravines, filled up the creeks and built in their placethis hideous monotony because it is cheaper to build uniform houses in uniformrows than to produce architectural dignity and permanence. Then after they havedestroyed these magnificent hardwood trees that have grace and permanence, theyplant rows of cheap poplars in front of the houses. To be sure, the wealthybusinessmen of
But there isanother city which had nothing like the original beauty of environment that
Now what havethese two cities to do with us in Saugatuck?
Within thevillage the beauty of the magnificent maples, oaks and willows has certainlybeen protected. There has been no effort to level the hill which adds so muchto the charm of the place. and even little
But, inaddition to these things, many of which are characteristic of other high class
On the westside of the river, we now have a good road, constantly improving propertyvalues, a greatly improved Ferry Store which, with its living apartment, is nowa thing of beauty, and a very attractive hotel. Of course our great claim toimportance is the magnificent beach. It is probably the village's greatest asset.The officials who are responsible for the upkeep of the beach and the road areto be congratulated. At times, a good many of us would be better pleased if thenative wild flowers and shrubbery were protected and cherished as moreappropriate than any cultivated flowers that could be set out along the road orat the beach itself. Perhaps that is a matter of taste.
In this lovelytrail, the most beautiful spot was what we called "The Cathedral."(The other equally beautiful spot in all of the forest land hereabout is whatis called "The
You may havenoticed that I speak of it in the past tense. "The Cathedral" isgone. the loveliest spot in the whole forest, which should have continued to bea Mecca for all lovers of natural beauty in our own generation and forgenerations to come, is now a pile of sand, with weeds and great quantities of pokeberry plants growing in it, while, off at one side, masses of yew, still remindus of that beauty that is gone forever.
It seems thatin the winter of 1939, an enterprising village council decided to make a skijump. It was a good idea, if it had been carried out with judgment and a senseof real values. It could have been done without destroying any unusual beauty.But for some reason which can never be satisfactorily explained to many of us,those magnificent trees that formed the cathedral arches above the meanderingpath were felled. What was the motive? Or was it sheer stupidity? Did thosetrees furnish firewood for someone, or was it a mere business deal? I knowwhere some of them are still lying and where others were lying until not sovery long ago. Some of them are still lying in our road, waiting to be takenout by a lumber company,. When I spoke of thisrecently I was assured that the trees that are lying in our road now are allwild cherry trees that fell in last year's severe wind storm. I made a point ofexamining these ten logs that are lying there waiting for the lumber company toremove then, logs that measure from 16 inches to two feet in diameter, logs oftrees that took from one hundred to two hundred years to grown into perfect beauty.Of the ten, just two are wild cherry.
The presentmayor and council, or at least most of them, are not to blame for this colossalblunder, if we wish to call it that. Indeed, I have great confidence in themayor and most of the council members believing that they would not repeat sucha mistake.
Why, then,rake up this distressing business causing friction and criticism after thething is beyond saving?
The reason isthat we elect a new mayor and a new council at frequent intervals. We do notknow when we may have men in power who will sell us out; men who will destroyour birthright for their own mess of pottage. We must do something to preventthis and the Woman's Club can and should take an active part in thisprevention.
Women arenatural conservationists. If women had had more to say about the way thingswere done in development of this country, we would not have the dust bowls,destructive floods, and worn out farmlands that are now having to be correctedand restored. The countries of
In Saugatuckthere should be a Conservation Committee composed of both men and women whohave no axes to grind, courageous, unselfish persons who will bring honestpressure to bear upon the future councils to see to it, hereafter, that not asingle fine tree is destroyed in these woods that belong to the village. Treesare cared for and saved in the forest land of the Artist's Colony and of
There areplenty of men and women in our village who could serve on this committee, menand women who are not afraid to interfere with the predatory interests orshortsightedness of those who need to be watched; who, if necessary, will bewilling to exercise their nuisance value for the good of the community.
It would be awonderful thing for the people of Saugatuck, if the forest land that is stillleft, should be turned over to the village as a public park in payment of backtaxes, if we can be trusted to take care of it. But if we are not willing toprotect it and fight for it, if necessary, I hope that we shall never getanother foot of woodland.
This committeewould have a delightfully interesting piece of work to do. For instance, withthe village, every council tree that is still standing should be marked.
A certainamount of reforestation should begin at once. With our high winds and lightsoil there will always be a certain amount of unavoidable destruction. Treesare not eternal, unfortunately. A certain amount of judicious cutting isinevitable. We should certainly replace good trees with hardwoods. The costwould be very small and many of us would be happy to contribute to it.
Certainly thismatter of conservation is important. And The Woman's club is the logical groupto start it and carry it on. Let's go to it!