“Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got ’till it’s gone?”
– Joni Mitchell
When it comes to street trees, Joni Mitchell was wrong. We do know what we have before its gone. Dan Burden eloquently described the value of street trees this way:
“Indeed, street trees so well establish natural and comfortable urban life it is unlikely we will ever see any advertisement for any marketed urban product, including cars, to be featured without street trees making the ultimate dominant, bold visual statement about place.”
A quick review of any architectural rendering will show, of course, that he’s right. And he’s not the only one.
- Kaid Benefield penned an essay, “The Case for More Urban Trees”, in The Atlantic Cities a couple years back. He says the bit of “urban forest” in his neighborhood is one of his community’s greatest assets.
- Chuck Marohn from Strong Towns records his on-street homily to street trees, proclaiming that “we should have trees along every street”.
- Given the time, we highly recommend you read Jill Jonnes excellent long form essay in the Winter 2011 Wilson Quarterly, “What is a Tree Worth?”
- And I’m also fond of Kevin Klinkenberg’s piece “Street trees & the importance of codes” wherein he relates the importance of street trees to walkability. If you read our recent pieces on the topic (part 1, part 2), we give a tacit nod to their importance as well.
To give Ms. Mitchell some credit, she did at least get me thinking about street trees in the context she intends: Appreciating what we have while we have it. But it also begged the question, what if our street trees WERE gone? What a better way to see the framing of public streets than to remove the very objects – trees – that enhance the space. So I put together a few GIFs that illustrate the before & after. Seeing them, I hope, will help you renew your appreciation for our arboreal friends.
Join the fun and tweet with the hashtag #StreetsWithoutTrees on twitter and we’ll add your gif, or your comments, to this page.
Hyde Park, Boise, Idaho
Pearl Street, Boulder, Colorado
Main Street, Bozeman, Montana
Grand Avenue, Glenwood Springs, Colorado
Downtown Billings, Montana
Downtown Grand Junction, Colorado
Downtown Colorado Springs, Colorado
Residential Bozeman Neighborhood