By Elizabeth Wright

The other morning, I heard what I thought was a lost kitten or dove, and after investigating, I discovered that it was a huge hawk as it flew over my head. Who knew hawks cooed! The week before, I found a falcon starring back at me through my office window. And a year or so ago, an eagle, whose wingspan was larger than I am tall, dived bombed me, veering off at the last second, avoiding what would have been a very different kind of collision covered on the evening news.

When I tell people these stories, they assume I live out in the country. In reality, I live in the city of Sandy Springs, not very far from Roswell Road and Highway 400.

How could this possibly be? Trees!

The value of trees so far surpasses what science tells us, however even a lot of that is unknown. A study in Environment and Behavior found that people driving down a curved tree-lined road versus a straight urban one without trees, scored lower on frustration levels, demonstrating the calming and stress relieving effect of trees that certainly could minimize road rage and potential accidents.

Tree lined roads give the impression of narrowing and encourage slower driving. The shade cast by trees significantly increases the life of the road by reducing the temperature of its surface during hot weather. Trees not only absorb carbon dioxide, but also remove ozone, nitrogen dioxide and particles. They add to real estate values by at least 6%, especially with high tree cover. Homes and properties on tree-lined roads are more in demand and sell faster.

What really hits a Southerner in the wallet is the costs of electricity during the peak of the summer heat. Because I have a yard full of beautiful large trees, my air conditioner only runs in the evening for a few hours as compared to others, who have removed most if not all of their trees. Needless to say, my electric bills are a tiny fraction compared to theirs, even when their home is half the square footage of mine. This is caused by the shading of the trees, plus the evaporation effect of their leaves, which has a cooling effect on the air surrounding them and my house.

We all know that Abernathy Road is being enlarged from two lanes to what I was told was four lanes. In reality, it is actually five-plus. In the plan for “Greenspace Park”, the majority of the Abernathy Road will have a median between the four lanes where small trees will be planted, plus there will be sidewalks on both sides of the road.

It seems a misnomer, as this will require unnecessary sacrificing of significant old, large trees that line the road. It will take at least 50 if not 100 years for the small trees to even come close to those that will be cut down.

I was recently told by the Sandy Springs mayor that one particular magnificent water oak across from The Sports Authority will have to be sacrificed. Spence Rosenfeld, a recognized arborist, says “this is the oldest and healthiest one he’s ever seen in his 30 year career.”

The other concern with a median, is there is no turn around abilities, so when there is an accident, it will cause even more congestion.

I walked to Piedmont Park a few weeks ago, and was amazed at how many healthy large trees were literally on the curb of the street with their roots going over the curb into the dirt and under the road. Today, there is a new concrete product that is porous to rain, so if a tree is close to the road this concrete can be used around it, so its roots will continue to get water.

Sandy Springs is one city that actually has a budget for “greening.” It has allocated large sums of monies for this and the plantings of small trees up and down Roswell Road are a result. It seems odd to have a budget for planting small trees when saving and conserving the large ones would contribute more to the environment, the city and especially to a “Greenspace Park.” This would be a much more efficient use of our time, energy and money.

The real pertinent question here is who is actually in charge of this project, the Sandy Spring’s government or the DOT? Because there could be radically different outcomes, depending.

I remember in high school being taught that we are the government, that they work for us and not the other way around. However, it is our responsibility to let them know how we feel about the decisions and actions they are taking, especially if we have questions, concerns or disagree. There will be an event on Sunday, October 7th at the Grand Tree on Abernathy Rd, for concerned Sandy Springs citizens and all others. There will be information, conversations and beverages.

Between 1890 and 1920, people in Georgia left their legacy to us by planting trees, which now are those big, beautiful gentle giants that seem so dispensable in favor of progress. But is it really? And are they really?

“Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to talk to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth”. — Herman Hesse

Elizabeth Wright is a Sandy Springs resident who lives just around the corner from the “Grand Tree on Abernathy.”