Berlin should protect its trees, but carefully
I think that I shall never see.
A poem lovely as a tree …
So wrote American poet Joyce Kilmer in February 1913, as he reportedly looked out the window at his wooded lawn.
This poem, which has been criticized as too simple and has been parodied endlessly, has regained some of its significance in recent years, as the public has become more aware of how trees define a town’s or area’s image.
Berlin without trees, for instance, might as well be a dot on a map of the treeless Texas Panhandle. And yet, government control of trees on private property remains controversial, which could be why the Berlin mayor and council aren’t likely to rush to adopt a tree ordinance as suggested by resident Joan Maloof at last week’s planning commission discussion of the comprehensive plan.
She isn’t wrong when she argues that the town would lose a vital part of its personality were certain notable specimens to be cut down or bulldozed to make way for new projects. At the same time, however, some property owners would resent this government intrusion on their property rights.
Of course, government already has considerable control over property through zoning, environmental and even architectural regulations. But people have become accustomed to those kinds of restrictions, while a strict tree-protection ordinance would be something different.
Maloof is also correct, however, when she points out that Ocean Pines and Ocean City have tree protection regulations, even though Ocean City’s ordinance did not come about without quite a bit of argument.
The key in establishing some kind of protection for trees is not to be ridiculously restrictive, where a big bush brushing against a house can’t be taken out by the homeowner without government permission.
Realistically, one way to approach protecting “heritage” specimens would be to institute some kind of quid pro quo program for property owners who have their trees listed as such with the town. No one can complain about that.