Thursday, August 2, 2018

Where have all the fruit trees gone...people cut them one by one

The blogster has always been fond of fruit trees, the incredible gift of food spanning generations. Sure almost all of the fruit and vegetables we eat today are the result of many generations tinkering with the plants, but fruit trees are about delayed gratification, something it* finds sublimely attractive.

Of the many posts about fruit and veggies on this blog, you might like the UBER for plums, apples, and berries one best because it brings together a new tech buzzword and traditional harvesting.

This post, though, is about loss - the loss of fruit trees, of the joy they brought, of the way they created and nourished the social bond of a community with its administration via the public works department's care of the trees and the fruit.

The blogster's city has a park at city hall like many other American cities. What distinguished this park from others around the nation was the kind of trees the city decided to plant in addition to the uninspiring elms, maples and the like: orange trees.

City workers not only maintained the orange trees, after all they maintain many other trees on public property. No, they took care of the harvest. As the oranges began to ripen late in the year, city workers would pick ripe oranges and place them in crates at the feet of the trees.

Residents and the errant tourist - there were few tourists around here in these days - would take as many oranges as they wanted. When the season was over, the workers would put the empty crates back into storage for the next year.

You don't have to be an overly sensitive or hyper romantic tree hugger to understand the bond between the residents, the orange trees, and city hall. The sense of ownership and care, of serving the community was obvious.

Then the 1980s or 1990s happened. City leaders decided the time had come to redevelop city plaza and its surroundings. You can imagine the fate of the orange trees. Planning documents of the time mention that many of the orange trees had outgrown their spaces, making the park crowded. There was also adjacent parking, which - as the planners phrased it - had 'impacted' the trees.

To make the story short, the orange trees lost the fight. The whole plaza was re-planted with more convenient trees, nothing that bears fruit and thus become a nuisance, a health hazard, or a public safety concern.

In the many decade the residents had enjoyed the orange trees and the annual free fruit no one had ever sued the city over the orange menace, but you never knew, you could not be careful enough. Don't ask the blogster if this  cautious approach also applied to hiring in the city police department.

Decades since the plaza redevelopment, the scars of the works have healed, and very few of the younger residents know about the orange trees.

* We are gender neutral around here. It is healthy.

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