As living fixtures upon otherwise cold and stark scenes of urban sprawl, trees play a vital role in preserving the health and emotional wellness of a city and its denizens -- but to some, sadly, they are seen as just getting in the way.
For nearly three decades, a stately Linden tree grew in the heart of Cleveland, Ohio, its canopy offering a welcome sight to passing motorists and pedestrians along the major thoroughfare where it had been planted. Recently, however, the community was appalled to discover that that healthy, 30-foot tall tree had been reduced to a stump one day without a clear reason as to why.
After an investigation, ABC affiliate NewsNet 5 uncovered the culprit -- Clear Channel, the owner of a massive billboard installed nearby. The tree's oxygen producing leaves, so it seems, were partially obscuring the important message plastered along the roadside eyesore, apparently something about Kenny Chesney.
"I was shocked when I saw the tree. It was cut down, the head was lopped off, it was so upsetting," said local business-owner Maria Keckan. "It was a healthy tree, it could have been trimmed. The company did not call us. The city didn't notify us. It's on our tree lawn."
Those most familiar with the tree weren't the only ones bothered by the sudden loss of the tree. Although Clear Channel was issued a permit by the city to clear the obstruction, councilman Brian Cummins says that he's not sure why they were allowed to remove the tree entirely. He has pledged to delve deeper into the matter.
Still, that offer little comfort for Neil McCormick, who operate works near to where the tree had been cleared for the sake of a billboard.
"You can only cut down a tree if the tree is sick, or if somehow it's a hazard or danger," McCormick tells NewsNet 5. "Here we are tree city, the forest city, and to see a tree get whacked because of business interests?"
While this case may seem rather shocking to any sensible city-dweller, what may be more so is the fact that the it's not entirely uncommon. Thanks to the lobbying of big-business, like media giant Clear Channel, cities across the US have laws on the book that allow for the removal of trees to preserve the clear line of sight to billboards.
But, of course, that needn't be the case.