The grand tree

Don’t know about you, but Robroy was getting all geared up for the Baltimore Grand Prix on the streets of downtown come Labor Day.  I loved the idea of cars blasting past my office windows at the speed of fighter jets.  I thought it would be fun looking down from the heights of the Bromo Seltzer Tower like a kid kneeling over a toy racetrack and shouting, “Cool!”

But no great thrill comes without a great moral dilemma.  In this case, what to do about the trees along the race route?  Cut them down?  These are beautiful, mature trees we’re talking about here.  Some of them are personal friends of mine.  But are they worth preserving if they block the grandstands and the chance to inject $250M into downtown’s businesses?

A spokesperson for the city’s landscape architecture firm was reported to say that the trees along the race route would be “uprooted, temporarily moved to other locations and then replanted in their original location.”  He said this effort would be repeated each year of the five-year commitment to the Grand Prix.

I liked it.  I have always said that trees don’t get enough exercise.  So I go for a stroll down Pratt Street to see my friends off, and what do I find?

Stumps.  Shorn-off tree stumps.

Ah, Baltimore.  The human race.  How can we win if we cut off our roots?

Your turn.  What do you stand to lose or gain from the Grand Prix?  Leave a comment below.

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11 Responses to “The grand tree”

  1. Marci says:

    I just want to say what a treat your blog is. When the entries show up in my mail box, I read them in full, and then go through to articles I haven’t read yet.

    Your writing brings me to a special, sunny place where we’re all working hard just to get through, but keeping our wits and sense of humor about us.

    Gorgeous writing, my friend.

  2. Luba says:


    I am struggling with this one. I have been personally peeved by the extra commute time it has been taking since they started the street closures and detours. I want to be able to get home quickly to see my family and not spend all of my time behind my windshield (it’s not nearly exciting as being in an Indycar).

    Now that you’ve mentioned the “tree trimming” I am not only feeling inconvenienced, I’m horrified. What makes Baltimore “charming” to me are the serene tree-lined streets with beautiful quaint houses. I left Manhattan for this!

    Perhaps they will replace the stumps with potted trees that they can honestly move temporarily for the next several years and then put them back permanently when the madness is over.

    Baltimore does need revenue, but I’m not convinced that this is the best route – any other fund-raising ideas???



    • Robroy says:

      Luba, thank you for your thoughtful reply. I agree with you that Baltimore needs revenue and we need more ideas. Unfortunately, Mayor SRB has not shown leadership here. I never heard her say, “Here’s where we’re going as a city … we may lose some trees along the way … but this is why I think it’s the right thing to do.”

  3. Dan says:

    Trees?!?! I’m just hoping no one gets beaten, stabbed and killed!!!
    Something that sadly happens often at downtown events. That said,
    I am so pumped for this. A chance for us on the map other than all
    the truly negative things (e.g. The Wire, crime, highest syphillis rate,
    fights over the word “hon,” etc).

    • Robroy says:

      Dan, thanks for your comments. Having lived and/or worked in downtown Baltimore for 18 years now, I’ve noticed that even during big events you will see people helping each other out, giving medical assistance, rescuing strangers from drowning or robbery, helping them with car troubles or just giving them directions. This city is full of confusion and pain, you are right. And it is full of powerful healers.

  4. […] I knew of another guy in town with my problem, a visual artist, Robert McClintock.  His commercial success threatened his status as an artist.  I was on my way to interview him for the Baltimore Business Journal (here’s the column), when I received an email on my Blackberry from Joe Wall of the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts, manager of the Bromo Seltzer Tower. […]

  5. Frank B. says:

    “…no great thrill comes without a great moral dilemma.” How true.

    Baltimore will see monetary gain and all it will cost is to erase natures footprint for a moment of entertainment.

    I have to say Rob…. you really make us think. Great entry.


  6. Nick says:

    How is planting 135 little trees a replacement for 35 existing big trees? Isn’t that no different than digging up a 6 lane road and leaving a gravel path? or tearing down a hospital and setting up a table and have someone with a first aid kit? Why not build the stands around the trees so people watching would have some shade? What else are they removing? Even if they remove street lights… those can be replaced at 100% the same as before.

    Trees are a renewable resource not a replaceable one

    They should ask Arborists… not landscapers for tree advice. Moving big trees is possible but these landscape architects always say ‘we will move them’ before they ask how much it costs… plus moving large trees out of tree wells in sidewalks has never been successfully done.
    As someone who has been ordered to remove trees for these situations… I understand the moral dilemma… what do you do when ordered to remove trees for political or bad reasons? I didn’t want to lose my job and have it done anyway, so you do it and fight for something afterwards. I am sure the City Arborist has this internal concern but isn’t allowed to voice it.

    FYI… I love the running tree

    • Robroy says:

      Nick, I welcome your perspective and experience as someone who works with trees. I wish someone had asked your opinion before the cutting downtown began. Thanks for your comments and feel free to stop back any time.

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