Dutch Elm Disease: The Destruction of a Neighborhood

BEFORE Dutch Elm Disease

Just updated the post with this photo. A great shot of our street in July 2012.

I have to admit, I’m no “tree-hugger”. I like camping and appreciate the beauty of nature, but by no means consider myself to be any sort of activist. However, today I can honestly say….I’m saddened to the core. I fell in love with our street long before we ever bought a house here. The heritage homes were beautiful, but what captivated me most was the incredible canopy of hundred year old trees that lined the street. It was simply gorgeous in the summer when the leaves of the huge trees were fully grown and the expanse of green foliage created a tunnel-like effect when looking down the street. In fact, I remember telling Tim, “Someday I want to live on Machray.”

Although I have oodles of pictures, it amazed me that I had few that really captivated the beauty of the street. I guess that is often how life goes, you don’t truly appreciate what is before you until you lose it. I managed to find a few pictures that give a bit of an example of how our street looked clothed in the beauty of those huge trees.

Over that past few years, we’ve watched as the city has “tagged” the odd tree here and there, indicating it has been infected with Dutch Elm Disease. Eventually, the crews would come and remove the tree, to the disappointment of the entire block. However, this fall things took a huge turn for the worse.  We watched as tree after tree was tagged and how the process seemed to quicken from months to mere weeks. Last week, on my day off, the usual silence of our street was disrupted by the sounds of chain saws and falling trees.  I would have prefered to be at work.  It was bad enough to come home at the end of a work day to see which trees had been removed, but clearly the city was trying to beat the snow and seemed to be on a mission. I listened as the chain saws fired up, felt the shake as those near our home hit the ground and looked on with a deep sadness as our street evolved into something more reminiscent of a war zone.

One of the workers said our street had been one of the hardest hit. I am not surprised by this news. The initial length of time between tagging and removal seemed like a long drawn out process ~ with plenty of time to for the disease to spread from tree to tree. Although they are now working diligently to remove the infected trees in a timely manner, it is much too late for our beautiful street.

The canopy that first drew us here has been stripped away and the dreary day seemed almost fitting to the mood on the street. A piece of our neighborhood is gone, but our spirits won’t be broken. We are blessed to have such awesome neighbors and although it will never be as beautiful as it was, we can not let the absence of trees ruin the street we have grown to love and appreciate so much. I know deep down it is not the trees that make a neighborhood, but rather the people who live here. I was actually surprised by my own feelings as I watched it all unfold, it feels like such a significant loss. Despite this,  we will continue to love this street we call home. Hip-Hip Machray!!

About Cindy RoyI am a busy mother, wife and kindergarten teacher. I have a huge list of loves! I love my family, Springs Church, old houses, "up-cycling" and DIY projects, scrapbooking, volleyball, interior design, cake decorating, party planning, healthy eating, and sleeping. I am very organized and reflective, and am continually striving to do life more lovingly, passionately, effectively and successfully.

5 thoughts on “Dutch Elm Disease: The Destruction of a Neighborhood

  1. Hi Cindy, As always, you have so eloquently captured the emotions and sensible thoughts that run through as we watch the changes in our neighbourhoods and communities. Our neighbourhood in Oakville Ontario has also suffered tremendous loss with the Elm Ash Borer infestation killing so many of our elm trees. It is devastating to watch as this is an ongoing issue. Again, as always, you have captured what really matters… the people in our neighbourhood and our community. I love your positive words! So, that brings me to the reason for my post… you might find googlemaps.com has captured some earlier photos of your street. You probably know that you can backdate your request for earlier photos! It doesn’t bring back your former street, but at least you can preserve it in photos. Hope all is good in your life and I love hearing your updates! Cousin Julie

    • Thanks so much for the post Julie. No, it never occurred to me to check Google Maps and I had no idea you could back date it. Found a great picture that captures our street in July 2012. Thanks for the tip. I’m sorry your street has suffered the same type of loss. It is amazing how horrible it makes you feel. I’m sure the summer will be hardest as that’s when we’ll notice it the most. You are alwasy so encouraging. Thanks for your support. Cindy

    • … I realised after I posted that I incorrectly referred to our tree problem as “Elm Ash Borer”… I definitely had “Elm” trees on my mind after reading your post. The correct name is actually “Emerald Ash Borer” and it impacts our Ash trees, not Elm trees.

  2. I feel your pain as you mourn your loss. Mature trees up and down the street give it something special. It’s like being in a cathedral. I am a tree hugger myself, but didn’t notice it at all until I left the old world to come to the new.. It’s true you don’t appreciate what you have until you lose it. Where we are now, in what used to be a trading post area, we have some fantastic old trees. and at this time of year, with their leaves gone I get a rush of pleasure from these massive trees with their bare arms raised to the sky like so many dancers. And then we have giant fir trees, their green skirts covering everything up to the houses and out all the way to the road, so I feel at home. Does the city plan to replace your ash trees? Make sure you plant a tree of your own Cindy – a Maple tree,e.g., something of you, that will see grow, as we did when we lost a beautiful old tree on our property. In a high wind a huge branch came off and fell into the road, and when the city came to look at it, it was hollow in the trunk. It was removed, de-stumped and gone in a couple of hours, with me wringing my hands and in tears. I loved that tree. So I got the seed of a beautiful Maple in the area and planted it in a styrofoam cup and it grew. I gave it to Julie, but it eventually it had such a significant root system, it had to be removed, because the roots encroached on the neighbor’s house and they thought it might crack their basement, I grew another one for myself about five or six years ago, and eventually planted it in a big open space, and you should see it now. It has to be 8 – 10 ft. tall already. We had to protect the bark from squirrels and rabbits in the area who will eat the bark and kill the tree, but if you look in the garden centre at their young trees, you will see how they do that and you will need a stake or two and a cage, but it will be your our own beautiful home-grown Roy tree forever after. BTW, in the winter, I just stuck the styrofoam cup in the ground fearing six months in the house would not help it. Good luck and I hope the city comes along in the meanwhile to replace the ones you’ve lost with something more resilent.

  3. It is so sad that we lost this important backdrop to our children’s lives. Fairy doors in roots, tightrope anchors, hide and seek hiding spots, the protector in tag, finish lines for races, the extra support for learning to bike ride, pogo stick and unicycle, the boundary marker for little ones, shade for little faces, resting spots on a hot day, the fantastic celebration and wonder of bright green overhead as spring announces itself, piles of leaves to jump in in fall… But I agree, Machray’s true beauty has been in watching our kids grow up together into wonderful young people and in knowing that they have neighbours who love and care for them. Thank you for being such a fantastic neighbour!

Love to Hear From You!