Pink and blue dots mark trees along the edge of the Whitehouse Nature Center lining Newburg (29 ½ Mile) Road and continue down the road into B Drive South properties. Albion College faculty and students are concerned that these blemished trees will be trimmed, if not chopped down.
After speaking on a few occasions with Albion’s road department, Whitehouse Nature Director David Green said to faculty and students that the dots were due were spray-painted in preparation for road construction plans this summer. Relaying the tree concerns to Calhoun County Road Commission’s civil engineers, Green conversed about the status of the road project with supervisor for the Albion area of Calhoun County, John Pace.
These Newburg Road trees are eight of 70 varying species have been documented in Albion College’s Stowell Arboretum. Dr. Dan Skean, professor of biology, documented the species with photographs and descriptions of the trees lining the west side of Newburg Road. The species are walnut, hickory, bur oak, shingle oak, red/black oak, white oak, bassword clumps and cottonwood.
In the past, it has been publicly announced that trees lining construction zones would be trimmed. Because no public announcement has been given, some faculty and student nature-lovers trimming or chopping is not carried out.
At the time of publication, the only spoken preparation from the Road Commission on the marked trees is for each to be limbed up due to construction planned for this summer. The ability for supplies and vehicles to reach Newburg and repave it are in need of wider space. As a result, the tree limbs overhanging the road, or the trunks within a certain distance, will need to be removed.
If trees are trimmed, it may not just be a close shave haircut, said White, but “a wholesale felling of roadside trees.”
Dr. Wesley Dick, Albion history professor, said, “It seems to me that so many of the recent regrettable decisions to put the chainsaw to our Calhoun County trees are the result of linear thinking. My challenge is for us all to be more imaginative.”
Many trees along roads or edges of properties in Calhoun County have already been “trimmed” due to hedgerow removal and the necessary expansion of fields for farming. Skean took the time to document at least 40 of the trees along Newburg Road. With help from students and alumni, several large bur oaks, all of which have historical significance, aging 100 years or more, have been marked. Some of these trees are in the vicinity of the College’s Stowell Arboretum and Student Farm, whose property edges line Newburg.
Dick wrote what he described as a “love letter” to voice his concern and heartbreak regarding the trees lined up for a “military haircut” as a result of Pure Michigan’s necessity for new asphalt over trees. After all, Pure Michigan is a campaign slogan meant to entice people to visit the natural slopes and wild beauty of the outdoors.
Dick stated in his letter, “In the spirit of the Lorax, I am using this opportunity to speak for the trees.”
Dick said trimming of the trees “is an aesthetic theft, stolen from all who are inspired by beauty, and an ecological theft stolen from the animals who depend on the natural gifts of the trees.”
Many of these century-old trees won’t have the chance to be replaced in our lifetime, he said. The transcendental and spiritual experience of visiting the Whitehouse Nature Center, would be corrupted by the trimming of the trees in this sacred place.
As Director of the Whitehouse Nature Center, Green will stay in contact with the road commission on the status of the project.
Further interest in the trees of Albion visit:
Photo by Wes Dick