Saturday, May 24, 2008

What have they done to the shade?

October 15, 2005
Remember that gorgeous dappled shade under the high, cooling canopies of the trees that arched over the sidewalks around Madison's Capitol Square? Remember that natural air conditioning that formed a micro climate around the Capitol on even the busiest, warmest days of the Farmers' Market? This is how it looked on the North Carroll Street block in 2005. Hold on to those memories, because that's all we have now.

Last fall I wrote about what was happening to the Square in "Murdering trees on the Capitol Square".
The old, big trees on the outside terrace of the Capitol Square are being removed. Having cleared South Carroll Street, the city can now move on to North Carroll and clear those big, old pesky trees in the background.
Those big, old pesky trees are gone now (click on the link to see what they looked like last fall). The last of the big trees on the outside of the Square have been cut down.

This was the State Street corner of the Square yesterday, with North Carroll on the right. Sure, it will be repaved, and the trees will be replaced. Huge, overarching trees with great individual character, a variety of species that withstood everything Mother Nature could throw at them for the better part of a century, have been cut down. Sure, they would have died eventually. But they could have been treasured until then, and they could have been individually replaced. Instead, they're been taken down all at once and replaced by tidy little identical toy maples. In place of variety, monoculture (in other words, they could all be wiped out by a single new, unanticipated virus). And in place of shade, an exposed desert.

UPDATE: Here's a link to the Wisconsin State Journal story about the tree replacement and renovation, thanks to reader TL in the comments, whose search skills are better than mine. Officials seem to prefer the word "promenade" to "exposed desert," but I think we're talking about the same thing.


CitizenReader said...

Oh...that is just the saddest thing. Both the Art Fair and Taste of Madison are going to suck now. Aren't they getting busy re-planting anything else?

Emily said...

Boo. Has the city offered any explanation as to why the trees had to come down? Were they diseased, or just in the way of their fancy street renovations?

What a shame.

The Laundress said...

Was it oak wilt?

Dutch elm disease? (I have a downtown Madison house, lost a massive backyard tree to DED a few years back and damn, it hurts but there is no option once it goes terminal!)

Maybe the trendy new emerald ash borer?

The Capitol Square certainly looks denuded. Sorry, 28 flimsy young maples (good lord, that is what they have replaced the old beauties with??) in NO way substitute for giant oaks and elms (or even old maples)

Why aren't the planting lovely burr oaks?

your tree-hugging fan,

Madison Guy said...

TL, thanks for the link to the article, which I've added to the post. I was trying to find it and failed. Your search skills are better than mine.

I think it was mostly old age that did in the big trees. Eventually they were going to come down, one by one, and there seems to be something in the bureaucratic headset that prefers mass euthanasia to natural death. No doubt the usual crew of lawyers and insurance types weighed in with liability concerns as well.

Another sad thing about the monoculture of "flimsy young maples" is that they may be "disease resistant" today, but eventually some pathogen will find their point of vulnerability, and they will all go at the same time.

The Laundress said...

Not to mention that, in general, maples have unattractive branching and are ugly as sin unless in the throes of glorious fall color. Most of the year? Dense shade and obtrusive rooting = hideous and unappealing replacements for oaks, elms or (just about any other) trees.