update: old beech is dead

July 10, 2006

in Urban issues

Do you remember the beautiful old beech tree I wrote about, the one that was being exposed by the building of trails in a new park? I had feared the woods would be ruined by invasive species and drying winds as one side of it was opened up to build soccer fields.  The beech, I figured, would be defaced by pen-knife yielding initial-carvers.

Well, we returned recently and things were worse than I expected.  The one side is indeed opened up, and facing acres and acres of mowed soccer fields, all empty even on a glorious summer day.  I’ve come to learn this huge park was rammed down the throats of taxpayers, who protested the $3 million price tag, especially considering that there was no money in the budget to operate the park!

What appear in the master plan as “fishing ponds” are actually retention basins, which drain into the lovely woods. Click to enlarge this photo: those are Cedar Waxwings landing on the thick smelly algae mat catching flies.


Another side of the forest is open as well, not to the park, but to a new subdivision.  Here is that side, where that glorious beech tree once stood.  That’s right.  It was cut down, along with a few acres of it’s neighbors.


Here come the marching rows of sterile McMansions, with prices in the”mid-$500s.”


I’ll add that this community is legendary for bigfoot homes furnished with lawn chairs — the only thing people can afford after being lured to the “good life.” Recall our economy in the auto capital of the world isn’t too hot right now, and foreclosure rates and bankruptcies have skyrocketed.

How ironic is it that there are miles of vacant space in the city of Detroit, where there were real communities once, yet we still continue to destroy our natural heritage to build unaffordable, unsustainable, featureless housing further and further from the city center? There was an excellent post at the DetroitYes forum:

The McMansion phenomenon is indicative of an economic system that is built on cheap credit, cheap land, and cheap oil. It is set up for this system and we are all subsidizing it. The size of the house is  inversely proportional to the amount of community. Community in the exurbs is expressed as conformity, the same size house, the SUV, and everything is “taupe.” As real community decreases, the size of the house increases as a way for the homeowner to compensate for the lack of connection they have to their surroundings, they are in effect, building their own little worlds.

A true urban residence would not have to be huge because a person would be spending more of their time in public spaces with neighbors, not in a traffic jam alone in a Hummer, or a “great room” watching a 54” plasma presenting the latest reality show.

Poverty isn’t just for poor folks anymore, but for the middle-class who succumb to materialism, who equate being rich with “stuff” rather than the things that enrich one’s soul, such as the ability to touch the smooth bark of a beech tree decades older than yourself.


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