Op-ed: How about some notice before a tree is cut down?

Last month a magnificent fruiting tree on the southeast corner of Dwight Way and Grant Street was cut down. Turns out it belonged to the Berkeley City Ballet.

A good guess is that thousands have plucked fruit from this tree, likely without knowing what kind of tree it was, or even if it was OK to eat. Head-height fruit full of flavor within arms’ reach of the sidewalk — this was the kindest tree this side of town, offering an introduction to harvesting edible, urban fruit. She took my fruit-picking virginity, and that of many others.

The abrupt removal of this beautiful tree just as it was bearing fruit was upsetting for local residents. The tree was a highlight of for all who walked by and appreciated the fruit it bore and its beauty —  it is unbelievable that it was cut down.

It also raises questions for me about the overreaching forestry department of the City of Berkeley.

Based on my visual observation, more trees are being cut (necessarily or not) than in past years for apparent safety reasons following a couple of high-profile trees falling during winter wind storms

Why not tag a tree with notice when it is scheduled for removal? If we can display details on building proposals, why not alert the neighborhood publicly of a tree’s last stand? Seems like a graceful, easy thing to do.

If you ask a dying loved one if they’d like you to do anything to save them, they will likely say no, that they simply appreciate your presence. Terminality is better discussed in advance than passed over like the quick pain of a flu shot.

There is a grieving process for the loss of anything living that you have seen and recognized more than once – and it feels healthy to acknowledge that.

It’s just plain unsettling coming home to find a tree missing on your block.

So how about a little advance notice when a tree is scheduled for removal? Could be from the city, or the contracted tree services company. Practically speaking, a business like the Berkeley City Ballet can avoid neighborhood blowback by offering an explanation – most of us are pretty reasonable. It’s a nice gesture for fans of trees who prefer a simple ‘goodbye’ to confrontational tree sits or bulldozer fist fights.

Dying with dignity isn’t exclusively reserved for human death. Being surrounded by loved ones in our last moments is something any of us would wish for – for any living creature.

This was a uniquely productive tree for many years and I am sure hundreds of people will identify it as now missing.

You might say I am over-reacting to the loss of a single tree, but this one happened to be my buddy, my fruity greeter in the morning each spring and summer. I didn’t even think to name her or find out what kind of tree she was. I would have, had I been given some notice of her demise.

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Ryan Mykita is Principal at More Animal Than Human, an outdoors conservation project launching worldwide in 2015. He is a permanent resident of Berkeley, and an adopted resident of Bogota, Colombia.