Draper’s foliage deserves attention
Take a tree-spotting ride with Margaret Bird, a member of the Draper Tree Commission, and she’ll point out the good, the bad, and the ugly.
There’s the good: The lush, varied zelkovas lining Walden Lane and the majestic elms on Fort Street.
There’s the bad: The cramped placement of a fast-growing maple next to a stately pine on 13th East.
And, there’s the ugly: The hatchet job done to trees bordering historic Draper Park School’s north side.
“It looks like a bad haircut,” she says about their lopsided canopies. “And one that lasts a lifetime.”
The state of Draper’s trees—and their future—is an ongoing concern for Bird and the volunteer-run tree commission. “Trees say so much about a community,” she says. The commission wants to help Draper, a designated Tree City USA, make a statement that trees are worthwhile investments.
“A tree is a gift you give to the next generation,” Bird says, and that’s why the poor planning and destructive tendencies of people she sees about town bother her. She offers some advice on trees: Instead of chopping a tree down, try to incorporate the tree into your landscaping. Do some research on what trees flourish with our high-alkaline irrigation water. Understand that some popular trees—namely flowering pears—are beautiful, but they won’t last a generation. Even Draper Park’s famous globe willow was a poor tree choice—too short lived and prone to stem failure.
Bird says she has always loved trees, recalling happy memories playing amongst them as a child in Georgia. Later in life, she moved to Millcreek, living alongside one of Brigham Young’s orchards. “It still had black locust trees that he had planted,” she recalls. When she moved here 16 years ago, Draper’s barren streets alarmed her.
So, she joined the Draper Tree Commission, wanting to help turn Draper greener. However, the commission is advisory only, which presents problems for trees and taxpayers. Much of the commission’s advice—offered by certified arborists and master gardeners—is ignored, especially by government officials and developers.
“We could save this city so much money if we could just get (government officials and developers) to listen,” she says, citing examples of the 123rd exit at I-15 and the 13th East widening. According to Bird, on both projects transportation and other officials didn’t listen to the commission’s tree recommendations and put in their own trees, many of which died.
What the board recommends to all is simple: plant the appropriate tree in the appropriate place and look at longevity.
“Proportion is everything,” she says of trees, especially those that line city streets. Planting a small tree on a big street, or a big tree on a small street, looks ridiculous, plus can cause problems for the tree or surrounding utilities. Additionally, planting long-lived trees adapted to our climate, keeps the green going for future generations.
For homeowners, the right tree in the right place can do wonders for property value, help maintain bird habitats and can make little tree climbers happy. Plus, the right tree can be economically helpful. Plant deciduous trees on the west and south side of your home, she suggests. In summer, they provide shade; in winter, they allow the sun in.
As Bird drives around Draper pointing out trees, she feels a great appreciation for those, who decades ago, made the effort to plant and nurture them. Admiring trees also offers her a peaceful moment. “Life is so hurried,” she says, “and there is something about a tree that is not hurried at all.”
Bird says the tree commission wants to be more of a community resource, and encourages people to seek help from them selecting the right tree for yards and parking strips.
“We can make a difference. We can plant great, long-lived trees (in the right places),” she says, “and be a community that is something special.”