To the Point for 4/28/05


TOMORROW (FRIDAY) IS a holiday around the country. Although its not one that allows us to get a day off of work or children to get a day out of school; it is a day that is important to both our past and our future.

It was begun in Nebraska many years ago, and today it is observed in nearly every community in the country in some form. Know what it is yet?

It’s Arbor Day.

You may remember Arbor Day, it’s the day that Americans are reminded of the importance that trees play in our society and in our survival. On this day many citizens plant trees in honor of the occasion, and municipalities also follow suit.

A couple of years ago — four to be exact — a group of residents held an Arbor Day observance in Vevay. They were working with the Vevay Town Council to have Vevay proclaimed as a “Tree City”, and there was even a ceremonial tree planting at the Vevay Cemetery.

Plans were made to create a program where people could purchase trees in honor of or in memory of a loved one; and those trees would be planted in strategic places around town as a means of beautifying the community.

But that was four years ago — and a lot can change in a few years.

Tomorrow there will be no organized observance of Arbor Day by the Vevay Tree Board — or anyone else for that matter. That’s mainly because the momentum of the development of Vevay as a “Tree City” has waned.


The town council at the time was working on the passage of an official tree ordinance. People were being asked to participate as part of the town’s tree board. Trees were being cataloged around the community so that an organized effort to preserve and protect trees — while working to safely remove hazardous ones — could be undertaken.

The beautification of a community through the use of trees and greenery that has been properly discussed and analyzed is something that many people don’t think about very often. The trees that are planted along both sides of Main Street and Ferry Street in Vevay are barely given a glimpse — but when the town council discussed taking them out because of disease, people lined up to express their objections.

Business owners see the value of greenery in front of their establishments, but want trees that don’t block their store’s signage.

Visitors on a hot summer day want some shade. Town employees want trees that are low-maintenance.

Many people pay attention to the cleanliness of the community, feeling that if a town is clean, visitors and those passing through have a more positive impression of it.

That’s true, but the trees and other greenery lining the streets also give motorists a good, warm, “homey” feeling about a community. Trees along the streets give everyone the feeling that we still live in a more rural setting — and that urban sprawl hasn’t quite made it to Switzerland County yet.

Trees not only provide basic comforts — cool shade on a hot day — but the right tree in the right place can beautify a town street unlike anything you’ve ever seen. The colors of the leaves and the flowers invite visitors in; and the aroma that fills the area urges them to sit and stay for awhile.

In the community that I grew up in, Main Street is lined on both sides with large, old oak trees. They hover over the business district; and I remember as a boy riding my bicycle along the sidewalks, underneath the shade.

The state came along a few years ago and decided to widen Main Street, which is also Highway 40; and to do so INDOT decided that the trees would have to go in order to make more room for the roadway.

In an amazing outpouring of support, the people of my hometown told INDOT that if widening the street meant that the trees had to go — then the street would have to stay the width that it was.

Ribbons were tied around the trunks. Signs were put in people’s yards. Opposition groups were organized.

Today, those towering trees still line Main Street, providing comfort, shade, and safety to a new generation of townspeople — just as they have for generations gone by.

As a society we need to understand the value of nature and the important role that it plays in how we feel about the place in which we live. Stroll along Main in front of the courthouse and head west toward the schools. Enjoy the beauty that surrounds you.

Vevay’s trees are not endangered, but there is still a need to compile and prepare a proper plan of maintenance and organized planting of new trees that will be enjoyed by future generations.

The trees that former councilman Earl Van Winkle planted in the Vevay Cemetery now provide beauty for the entire community; and a plan of upkeep and replacing dead trees will allow future generations to feel that same pride in our community that we do now.

But tomorrow is Arbor Day, so this is as good a time as any to bring up the point and ask the question: “Do we really care about our trees and about their future?”