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  • native-american-in-times-square-400x400 22 Feb

    Saving Oak Flat

    San Carlos Apaches’ modern-day fight to save sacred lands and protect us all from an unprecedented alliance of American politicians and foreign mining corporations The recent photograph of a young Apache woman in Times Square is, by design, destined to become a lasting symbol of strength, hope, and inspiration for a proud people. As a brazen clash of values, worldviews and cultures pursue Times Square, the United States Capitol, Wounded Knee, and other sacred, historical sites in between, there comes a story of money, power, broken promises and human rights. Resolutely, the young Apache woman moves forward as if compelled by a dream that began hundreds of years ago; her arrow held at ready to pierce the heart and hopefully awaken the soul of a country that has become technologically detached from the land of its better self. Fast forward from the visions of her elders to modern day, as she and her fellow travelers, with sparse financing, combine phone technology, the Internet, and a deep cultural bond to document their cross-country journey. With a metaphysical mixture of modern social media, songs, true hearts and ancient traditions, they travel in a quest to save a sacred part of the world and, if successful, save it for us all. On the Southern flank, Wendsler Nosie, the inspiring Apache leader and one of the guest speakers preceding the Moral Monday, March for Voter Rights, spoke at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, North Carolina: ” We are not alone with injustices and face these challenges together.” You can find out more about the Apache leader’s movement on the Facebook page “Apache Stronghold.” Listen to their words, speeches and songs around nightly campfires as they traverse the country from the beauty of Oak Flat, Arizona Washington D.C. Their journey cuts a much-needed, soul saving path across the grain of a modern American, technology driven society that increasingly consumes more and preserves less. Arrows of Hope Their “against all odds” quest to the Capitol is an attempt to save sacred tribal land in the Tonto National Forest, an area protected by President Eisenhower since 1955, from a proposed copper mining operation. How the deal went down to transfer this marvelous natural environment to a British and Australian mining conglomerate, Rio Tinto, should be of concern to all Americans. Oak Flat is one of America’s best desert/riparian forest habitats. J. Scott Wood, an archaeologist who has worked in the Tonto National Forest for 40 years says: “At the end of the day I think the American people are getting short-changed badly. They are going to lose an exquisite, beautiful piece of landscape that belongs to them. And yet a foreign-owned company is going to make billions of dollars of profit off resources that belong to the entire American public…”. How did this happen? In December of 2014, Arizona Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake deftly added a fine print rider at the last-minute to the must-pass military spending bill, the National Defense Authorization Act. This rider authorizes 2,422 acres of land known as Oak Flat to be transferred in a land trade deal to Resolution Copper, […]

  • david-lusk 22 Feb

    David Lusk: ‘Miss Yokley’s’ and the ‘Guru Oak’ of Summit and 5th

    Many years before the kind old lady’s house was built on the corner, before the granite retaining walls and concrete sidewalks, before power lines and water lines, before cobblestones and street cars, before Winston offered Salem a hyphen, before the diesel-powered machines and chain saws growled in February 2016 their existential summons, there was a great white oak tree on a hill. From modest sapling to maturity, the tree and the emerging tobacco town grew and prospered. As craftsmen built magnificent homes on the hills near downtown, the oak simultaneously built its own version of magnificence at the corner of 5th and Summit streets. The tree slowly evolved to form large scaffold limbs on a buttressed foundation of dense trunk wood that transitioned into even denser flared roots, earth-piercing anchor roots, microscopic absorbing roots. Cellular spring wood bubbled out from the cambium each year, engineering yearly sheaths of wood reinforced with a structurally sound 3D pattern of conical overlays. This growing tree bumped and bruised by storms, horse, and wagon, woodpeckers, street makers, utility installers and homebuilders survived over 200 years to become a great and wise tree. None could collectively thwart Guru Oak and his determined mission to channel the sun, create air, teach philosophy, inspire poets, host wildlife, clutter gutters and drop acorns on heads.   More years passed, thousands of smooth, lobed leaves would form like shining green earrings every spring; transform themselves into red, yellow, or brown hues; then ironically, fade, depart, tumble and float to the ground for leaf rakers to curse as the autumn winds swirled. Countless people walked the fanciful new sidewalks in the happy summer shade, while others gravitated toward the melancholy of Guru’s bare-branched silhouette on cold winter days. Nearby church bells sought to harmonize with his morning songbirds. Such is the cycle of life when living in tune with such a respected and formidable teacher. “Once there was a vast forest here, much has changed, much will change, you will see,” said Guru Oak to the exasperated leaf-rakers, lovers, and loners alike. As a boy in 1963, I knew the house with the big oak tree on the corner of 5th and Summit streets simply as Miss Yokley’s, a weathered and worn boarding house where inexpensive rooms were rented. Miss Yokley served meals, family style, to the tenants, the local workers, and shopkeepers. I remember mostly her quiet perseverance and the sweet tea. My dad, wearing his crisp uniform, would drive my brother and me there for lunch in his service truck from his Esso gas station at 4th and Poplar streets. There are no traces left of the gas station, only an asphalt parking lot and many, fading boyhood memories. Guru, however, survived many more years, capable of recording in his library of wood every setback and every success. He was one of several historic trees whose downtown presence taught me an important life lesson — a city that honors its trees is a city that honors its past, present, and future. True to the gritty tree’s prediction, things did change in a way that years later brought our […]

  • David Lusk, on Old Salem tree mischief

    In the late afternoon of May 5, 1989, the oldest and largest trees in historic Old Salem crashed to the ground from the winds of a fierce tornado. The losses were sudden and overwhelming. Difficult was the work of carefully lifting trees off the old buildings and cleaning up the massive pecans, oaks, maples and poplar trees with jagged upturned root systems that were ripped out, leaving craters in the rich soil. Chain-saw workers and tree climbers traversed the once calm village as bulldozers, cranes and dump trunks loaded and hauled the many criss-crossed tree trunks and limbs. A helicopter air-lifted large trees out of the sacred grounds of Salem Cemetery. There was head shaking, shock and grief mixed with a sense of duty, civic pride and a renewed allegiance to the historic community. Later that same year, rearranging much of North Carolina, Hurricane Hugo swirled like a boomerang, bringing to Winston-Salem an unwanted dose of déjà vu. Today, in the calm of remembrance, street trees that survived the onslaught of both tornado and Hugo stand like proud sentinels outside doorways in Old Salem. Now older and larger, some of these trees are wrecking a little mischief of their own. The buttress roots and surface roots of a number of trees are dislodging the brick sidewalks and creeping over the granite curbs. The bricks look like scattered and abandoned pieces of a puzzle that no longer fit. Because of the upheaval and potential for passersby to trip and stumble, there are many reasonable grumbles that these trees should be removed to allow for more level sidewalks. Furthermore, some Old Salem residents fear the tree roots have and will threaten the foundation of their homes. This goes to the heart of a common fallacy that tree roots can cause cracks in foundations, sewer lines, water lines, etc. Are not the scattered brick sidewalks and visible roots enough clear evidence of their sinister ways? Truth be known, tree roots seldom are the cause of structural problems. They can, however, grow into existing defects in construction materials in search of moisture, expand en masse and exacerbate the problems. All the while, arguments brew as the circumstantial evidence and guilt by association mounts against the trees. The city of Winston-Salem has an obligation to maintain and protect the street infrastructure within the mutual confines of Old Salem. Currently, there is a contentious debate. Do we sacrifice the trees for the sidewalk or do we sacrifice the sidewalks for the trees? Traditionally, the sidewalks most always win, until now. The Historic Resources Commission has voted to block the removal of some trees by not granting a Certificate of Appropriateness (COA) in hopes of finding, along with urban forester, Derek Renegar, immediate stop-gap measures and long-term solutions. Many municipalities nationwide are re-thinking their urban tree planting methods in search of longer living, healthier trees that do not interfere with sidewalks and streets. Cornell University researchers and others have developed “structural soil” technologies that are proving to provide more viable solutions for green spaces in urban settings. The Old Salem street tree dilemma calls for a more […]

  • David Lusk, shares lessons from a forbidden tree

    Throughout our city is a well-known, controversial, once popular but poorly understood tree. Loved by some, frowned upon by others, there has never been a more puzzling, enigmatic tree. How could a tree that once held so much promise as an all-purpose, compact, flowering, amenity tree fall so quickly out of favor? In the grand scheme of things, why does the story of a small tree that is gradually being removed from the urban palette even matter? This article focuses on the implications of a polarity of forces, working for and against a community’s trees; on the consequences of forcing nature to comply with the needs of a growing city, rather than a city that complies to the needs of nature; and of how a forbidden tree can serve to teach us that nature is the wiser, more consummate teacher of beauty and sustainability. Planted extensively in the 1980s and 1990s, the Bradford pear tree became a dominant feature in many subdivisions, on commercial properties and in parking lots. There has locally never been a more wildly popular landscape ornamental, amenity tree. The Bradford pear tree grows amazingly fast, yet symmetrical, with showy white flowers in the spring and, like fast food for the landscape, satisfies the desire for quick, pleasing, lush landscapes. Initially, they helped sell houses and decorated business properties, parking lots and downtown sidewalks. Although we have lost many of our native trees in the process of urban expansion, the Bradford pear quickly filled our need for fast-growing and affordable landscape trees that did not get too big and take up too much of the space that the larger, more majestic native oaks, hickories, maples and pines demand of us. All was well until, 15 or more years after planting, an inordinate number of the ornamental pear trees started mysteriously falling apart. Structurally, the main branches of the Bradford pear develop as a fastigiate, upwardly growing bundle of sprouts. Inside these bunched-up trunk branches are internal seams and separations between branches as they grow in quick synchrony, rather than slowly interlocking like those of an oak or hickory. With the occasional gust of 30-plus mile-per-hour winds, the weaker Bradford pears split in halves, quarters or thirds. Not all Bradford pear trees are without merit. Judicious removal of the weaker trees or selective pruning of weak branches are sound management strategies for most all trees. However, there is a low tolerance for trees that too readily drop their parts and, unfortunately, the order is often made to decapitate whole tops from trees in an effort to reduce their weight and prevent them from falling apart. Ironically, the end results are countless chain saw-blighted properties with unsightly trees struggling to resprout and survive the onslaught, as they are forbidden to either grow with dignity or be replaced. The perception of the Bradford pear as a totally flawed tree has led the way for a resurgence and a faulty rationalization for the outdated and ill-advised practice of tree topping. As a result, a multitude of the pears, along with crepe myrtles (the easiest and most severely topped), willow oaks, cherries […]