In the pasture, when I was a kid, a Sycamore tree—I will capitalize the name of this great type of tree—stood alone and apart from everything. The tree was old, the darkened bark long before fallen away on parts of the trunk and branches. The white and gray were exposed. The huge leaves covered the ground in the fall, but it was pasture land and eventually mulched. The tree was older than I was (obviously), and I have no clue how old. The tree was gigantic—as mature Sycamores tend to grow.
The lore as taught in those days, about lumber, was Sycamore wood was of little value. I did not care. The damn trees are beautiful.
I learned a few more facts, here and there, about Sycamores—Platanus occidentalis for those of you, like my friend Hank Huffman, who are punctilious about what we call our plant friends. One was that Sycamores have tap roots that run deep into the ground to grab water. That makes little sense, as far as the tree in our pasture was concerned. The tree was on a hillside and a couple of hundred yards from the creek. Another exception was the Sycamore on the lawn of Mason Hall at DePauw, when I was an undergrad. Usually, though, when I saw Sycamores, they were next to streams or creeks or rivers. Most of them were grand and tall.
Like any great trees, they provided homes for various forms of life. I think Mama Cass Elliott sang about birds singing in the Sycamore tree.
When I moved to Broad Ripple, I was impressed by the line of Sycamores on the south bank of the river. At the end of Park Avenue, behind the levee, the trees ran for a good block or so. In the mornings when I would go out to walk, an occasional owl—I was out early—would hoot, or squirrels would move branches—after the owls went to their nests—as they chased one another.
The levee was built after the flood of 1917. The levee is very high. There have been walls built over the past ten years to reinforce the levee.
We in Warfleigh, like residents in other neighborhoods near the river, officially are in a flood plain. I was told that has been the case since 1991, when someone found the levee was compromised.
One should bear in mind, the Sycamores are not on the levee. I think those trees might have been here before, and rode out, the flood of 1917.
We pay flood insurance, if we have—as most of us have—a mortgage.
IMPORTANT NOTE: “Your” flood insurance only is to cover a loss suffered by “your” mortgage company in the event of a once-in-a-century flood. I know—it has been one century.
The Sycamore trees are not on the levee. They are on the other side of the levee.
So who made the decision to cut down the Sycamore trees? Will our flood insurance go down in some way? Perhaps this is part of some “vision” for Broad Ripple—a vision the focus of which is on elimination of trees and of construction, in place of trees, ugly apartment buildings.
I am fairly confident our insurance rates will not go down soon.
At the same time, old growth trees in Crown Hill Cemetery were in danger of the axe, or some modern device the purpose of which is the same, this afternoon. City-County Councilor Zach Adamson was fighting the good fight, from what I could tell, to save those trees.
We need some of the characters from “The Two Towers,” the tree shepherds—I have forgotten what they were called. They would cry out and squash some orcs. Maybe they could impede a few developers, too. And those trees would not seek any TIF money, I would bet.