Ironton needs to coordinate projects

Published 10:05 am Wednesday, March 17, 2010

March has arrived blowing welcome warm winds across our fair city and, if attendance at this month’s general meeting of Ironton In Bloom is any indication, it is reviving thoughts of what we can do to make the outdoors an increasingly pleasant place to be.

Ten volunteers showed up around the table in the City Center this week, ready and willing to do whatever they can to help bring more beauty and grace to a town that is certainly worth the time and attention.

Trees keep coming up as a topic of conversation at these meetings since they are obviously one of the most lasting and effective legacies a group can provide.

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Last March about this time I wrote a column encouraging residents to become more aware of the value of trees around their homes: How they increase the value of property, cut down heating and cooling costs, and contribute markedly to both the health and beauty of a neighborhood.

This spring, since Ironton In Bloom’s goal is not only to enhance our town’s beauty, but, in so doing, to increase its economic prosperity, my mind has been occupied with the condition of trees in our downtown area.

When reading travel books that encourage tourism I find that, whether the descriptions are of Paris, Copenhagen, or just the attractions of a small Ohio town, the presence of trees and shade is always prominently discussed. With that in mind, I took a slow bike tour down Second and Third Streets this week.

I was disappointed to find that, although I’m sure all who are involved have the best of intentions, groups are often working at cross purposes.

Towns, with all their concrete and asphalt are exceptionally hot in summer.

Yet the majority of trees, especially those around the Vernon/Second Street prospective new development area, have been cut back like poor shorn lambs to the point where they offer no shade at all.

The city has placed beautiful, expensive new benches under these trees, hoping to encourage visitors to sit, shop, and stay awhile; but there is no shade to be had.

City workers cannot be blamed for this, since the study of forestry and landscaping is not a prerequisite to their being hired.

Their job is to keep the town neat and tidy.

They have not been told that planting Thornless Honey Locust, Bald Cypress, or Magnolia trees will eliminate much of the pesky leaf collection involved in the maintenance of fully grown trees; that a group of evergreens allowed to spread and intermingle will muffle sound and provide a cool quiet respite; that growing trees in clusters such as small dogwoods underneath larger canopy trees often eliminates the need to mow altogether.

Many towns have solved this dilemma by appointing a tree board, or at least a tree consultant, who is available to oversee downtown trees by helping to improve tree ordinances if necessary, designating heritage trees, being available to discuss new planting and the care of existing trees.

In small towns like ours, this board is often composed of a few knowledgeable volunteers with the mayor or other town official chairing meetings as needed.

Our mayor and city council have been most cooperative with all IIB projects and, I’m sure, would be willing to consider working with such a volunteer or volunteers.

If you have a background that would make you helpful in this capacity, call 532-2954 and we will see about getting this worthwhile project under way. I cannot think of a better legacy for an area resident to leave than to be part of making this town truly ‘tree rich’!

Individual businesses can play a major role as well. An excellent example is the Cochran and Company’s Pool Store at 1002 S Third St.

They have an attractive building, but little more than sidewalk space in front. Nevertheless, attractive shrubbery and two of the healthiest-looking trees in town grace their front entrance and invite customers in.

If a tree feels like it is too large an undertaking, consider adding a pot or two of greenery or flowers to enhance your entrance.

If you would like some advice in coordinating your plantings with those of Ironton In Bloom, call Carol Allen at 532-4495 to receive some enthusiastic assistance.

Judy Sanders is an Ironton resident and the chairperson of the Ironton In Bloom residential committee.