In a recent New Yorker cartoon, the Old Lady Who Lives In A Shoe tells a friend, "once, I tried to change the laces, and the Landmarks Commission came down on me like a ton of bricks."
Over the past week, Hood River's Landmarks Review Board and the City Council tied up some loose ends in the future of the Hood River County Library and the neighboring Roe-Parker House. The buildings are not quite so historic as the Old Lady's Shoe of the nursery tale, but are important to Hood River heritage. On March 21 the Landmarks Board accepted the library's proposed exterior remodeling designs, which now go to the Planning Commission for review. The decision showed that the library and its architects, along with the Landmarks Board, saw no need to be strait-laced in considering the historic needs and future possibilities of the building.
Then on Monday the Hood River City Council agreed, with regrets, to allow cutting of a nearby tree. (See page A1 for details.) That action was understandably painful, for it involves a beloved maple tree that might not survive the surgery. But the council's decision was the right one. The step was necessary to allow the Roe-Parker House to be moved by its new owner, Stephen Datnoff, before construction can begin as scheduled in July on the $4 million library remodeling and expansion. Utility lines run through the tree, requiring some branches be cut so the lines can be lowered to make way for the house.
The maple had its defenders; the fact that Councilor Andrea Klaas voted against trimming the tree is a sign both of healthy debate and respect for trees. Certainly it was right that the council also ordered planting of a "mitigation tree" near the maple, at Sixth and State streets.
Any time a tree is cut down to make way for a manmade object, it brings to mind other fables, such as Dr. Seuss' The Lorax, in which progress brings on the leveling of all foliage in the land.
But, unlike that story, the decision to trim the maple is not based on greed or ignorance. The costs of moving the house justify taking the risk of killing the tree. The council based its decision on the reasoned possibility that the tree, though shocked, could survive.
But the city should, in turn, monitor the pruning to ensure that minimal cutting is done so that house and tree both survive the adventure.