The tree must stay? After reading your letter to the editor, I must admit, it sparked a fire in me.

The tree must stay? After reading your letter to the editor, I must admit, it sparked a fire in me. After being told by people who don’t live here what is best for us, I’ve finally hit my breaking point. Near as I can tell from your letter, you reside in the Kansas City area, so let me be the first to clue you in that this is not the greater Kansas City metro area.

According to you, the original article “didn’t convince [you] the 100-year-old Cottonwood deserves to be cut down.” Well, the way I read the article, it cites 3 reasonable reasons it does need to be cut down including: “it’s caused the road to bend”; “It’s in [the county’s] right of way” ; and “Eventually, [due to a common SW Kansas winter storm] half of it will be lying in the road” and it will “deteriorate and eventually it will cause a problem, and accident or an injury.” Now we have counted the “pros” of tearing it down, let’s count the “cons.” 

Some members, and former members of the county have fond memories of the tree. I believe that is the only one I can find. Even you quote your father as calling the tree a “widowmaker.” Why is that? Is it is because, as you paraphrase your father, it is “in decline?” Because around here, we refer to a “widowmaker” as something that is a large danger and likely to kill someone someday.

At this point I feel the need to explain a couple things. First, I am all for keeping landmarks, be they as significant as Mullinville’s Round Barn, the World’s Largest Hand Dug Well, or the oldest remaining building on main street in Greensburg, the Robinett Building, or as insignificant as an ancient tree or an old windmill in disrepair. As a member of the local volunteer fire department who served extensively in the search and rescue efforts in the hours following the 2007 tornado, I fully understand what a landscape is like without trees, or at least with stripped standing trunks. And I yearn dearly for old, familiar landmarks that I knew growing up. But that doesn’t get to the true heart of the matter: Safety.

If my LOCAL County road foreman believes it is a “safety issue,” I am inclined to agree with him. Fact of the matter is I only drive that road probably an average of a couple times a week, but I also certainly slow down considerably every time I come over the hill and approach that intersection where the tree sits. Even after decreasing my speed, the “bend in the road” is still not a very safe passage, and if any traffic is oncoming, I decrease my speed dramatically. So what about the non-locals who don’t know to expect it? Currently, we have a large number of oil/gas and wind energy lease agents in the area out scoping that area every day.

Little known fact: In Kiowa County you can often drive the, as your college calls it, “dirt path” county roads and often drive 4-7 miles (4-7 intersections) without ever encountering a STOP or YEILD sign. When you do encounter one, if you will do your research, you will find that usually those signs have been placed at those intersections, after the fact, due to an accident that has occurred there. So, if our County Road & Bridge Department want to take a pre-emptive step to increase our safety, I am all for it.

As I alluded to in the first part of my letter, while I am happy about and grateful for the interest the outside world has taken in our small community, I am tired of outsiders telling us how things “need to be done.” I have sat back quietly for almost 5 years now as outsiders and “urbanites” have told us how we need to build, design and plan things, very few of which have ever stopped for a second to consider that we are not the typical metropolitan area they are used to dealing with, and what may very well work there may not necessarily work in our small, rural environment.

Often, if many of these well-educated engineers and the like would simply sit back and take a common sense approach, or at least have been open to an opinion of that nature, I think maybe the same goals could have been reached often at a simpler, cheaper means. Just as your solution of “moving the road” needs to be re-examined. Consider the cost of moving a road to protect an old tree, which while more scarce here than in other, more geographically fruitful areas, are not a complete rarity, as compared to the cost of uprooting and removing a tree for public safety. 

I appreciate your interest in our community, no matter what the background of it be, but please think twice next time before submitting a letter letting us know what folks in the Kansas City area think we should do, without ever actually seeing the situation first hand.

Jamie S. Brown