Courier-Post columnist Danny Henley asks how much focus should be done on the future?


I’m one of the more thankful people in America’s Hometown that thus far the summer of 2014 hasn’t been any hotter than it’s been. Wasn’t it just two or three years ago that by mid-July the temperature had already topped the century mark several times?

My appreciation for the “cooler” summer is based on the fact that our primary shade-providing tree in our back yard was brought down earlier this year.

The silver maple that had given summer-time shade to the back portion of the Henley home since we first moved in in 1986 had to come down after being severely damaged in the May 20, 2013, storm that felled or damaged countless trees throughout Hannibal.

When the storm’s high winds subsided in May 2013 I discovered that the center section of the maple had come crashing down. While I was super fortunate that night that the tree’s large branches had completely missed the car that was parked behind the house and only caused minimal damage to the gutter on the back of the house, I knew that in all likelihood it meant the tree would have to go.

Since I’m no tree expert, I conferred with someone who is, and he confirmed that my concerns were indeed justified. He said with the center section of the tree gone, the tree was now more susceptible to high winds bringing down more large portions of the tree. Since we had caught a break damage-wise in the 2013 storm, I didn’t want to risk that my house, or a neighbor’s house or vehicle might be damaged. I held my breath every time high winds were forecast to accompany a storm this spring until the tree was brought down.

As I’ve thought about it, counting the large maple we had brought down this spring, no less than five trees have been removed from my yard since we bought the property. Another that we planted less than a decade ago will have to be cut down this fall after part of it died as a result of the drought a couple of years ago.

To me that seems like an awfully high number, especially considering how small my yard is.

Logic would suggest that we replant a single tree or more in our back yard. However, we’ve been advised by another tree expert to wait a few years. Apparently the decay of the tree roots from the maple cut down this year will give off a chemical for the next few years that will make the soil noxious to any new tree that we might plant.

Meanwhile in front of our house, a new maple tree has been growing this spring. We suspect it is a descendent of the backyard maple.

As fate would have it, it sprouted smack in the middle of an area that previously has been designated for just flowers. It looks very healthy and has already has grown taller than me.

The only problem is that we knew the tree is growing near where the natural gas line feeds our house. Just to be safe, we called the good folks at Liberty Gas to come out and locate our gas line.

To my relief, a gas company official reported the tree was growing a good 5 to 8 feet from where the gas line is located. He pointed out that in another 10 to 15 years the new tree’s roots could present a problem for the plastic gas line.

A simple solution would be to take out my clippers and go snip. But after seeing a handful of trees removed from my yard over the years that thought is just not acceptable. I’d like to relocate it, but there’s nowhere in my yard that’s suitable.

Or should we worry today about a potential problem 10 or 15 years into the future, especially since at that point it would likely be someone else’s headache? As I thought about ignoring the future, I was reminded of environmental issues that I frequently hear being debated in this country today, only the scale of my dilemma is obviously much, much smaller scale.

For now, the tree stands where nature planted it, growing ever taller.