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Speak For the Trees

by Mark Foster, City of Asheville

“You’re the city arborist?  It must be wonderful to work with the trees all day.”  I don’t recall which citizen first said that to me or what year it was, but I have heard it a lot in the 15 years I have been in this role.  I usually just smile.  For the extroverts out there that probably sounds great.  Meeting lots of new people every day provides many opportunities of one sort or another.  But many people that are into trees and nature and so forth are not really into people.  That’s why we hang out in the woods.  We hike and backpack and mountain bike and so forth to get some solitude.  Maybe I’m not a total hermit since I often send smart phone pictures of what I see out there to family and friends back in “civilization.”


As a species, most of us are pretty done with living in caves in the woods, but as “civilized” people we still like to bring a little piece of the woods to our cities.  However, just like people vary about how much human contact they can handle in a day, they also vary about how much space they are comfortable offering nature in their tidy, concrete habitat.  As many of you may know, planting and maintaining trees in the downtown environment can be challenging for a city tree manager for that very reason.  Trees don’t really want to grow in constricted sidewalk tree pits and the weak sunlight of narrow urban canyons.  But people want trees to grow there regardless.</spa