BURLINGTON – Crowds of Burlingtonians gathered Saturday in City Hall Park, the focal point of a six month struggle by local grassroots activists to protect 60% of the trees from coming down to accommodate a new park redesign. Now that the City’s Development Review Board has given the final approval for the plan, the trees that were in the way are finally getting the axe. And those behind the new redesign were celebrating in grand style amidst the park’s colorful flapping banners that proclaimed Burlington’s status as Tree City USA.
“We wanted to make this occasion something that everyone in our diverse community could enjoy,” said Doreen Kraft, Executive Director of Burlington City Arts, and whose office in the BCA Firehouse Galley faces the park. Kraft, who helped spearhead the effort to “imagine City Hall Park” and promote the redesign, was in her element. “We wanted to do something that really made people aware of the arts opportunities in Burlington. The idea for Swing An Axe For The Arts was a great opportunity to two kill two birds with one stone, if you will,” she said smiling wide for the cameras as she hefted her axe into a flowering crab apple. “At last, I’ll be able to see the Flynn’s marquee when I peek my head out the door of the BCA without these graceful blossom-covered branches blocking my view.”
“I’m just lucky my wife is Burlington City Art’s Assistant Director,” piped in Keith Wagner, of Wagner Hodgson Landscape Architecture, the designer of the new park layout as he struggled to start his chainsaw. “I’ve finally been given the green light to improve this park the way I’ve always dreamed it should be. I can’t wait to upgrade all these trees with new and improved trees 2.0, and then start paving over a third of the park. I’m gonna plant 14 little saplings, and by the time your children have children, those saplings will be big enough to make nice neat little circles of shade for you to sit under. Very neat and clean.”
“That particular tree is actually perfectly healthy!” shouted new Burlington Arborist V.G. Comai, whose voice was quickly drowned out by a chorus of chainsaws. John Killacky, Executive Director of the Flynn Theater, whose beloved theatrical venue also borders the park, said he felt “joyous!” when asked for his reaction to the felling of the trees. “Face it, these trees are boring. The crash they make toppling over will be the most drama they’ve ever created. If a tree falls in City Hall Park, does it make a sound? Let’s find out!” he shouted, as he picked up an antique axe proffered by an underling on a silver platter and moved slowly and deliberately toward a stately Princeton Elm.
Members of Burlington’s homeless community backed slowly away from the axe-swinging proponents of the re-design and sought refuge in a far corner of the park. “We can still see you,” menaced a member of the crowd who hoisted his screaming chain saw high above his head after his prey, a Silver Linden, crashed to the ground, narrowly missing Mayor Weinberger. “I feel safer already,” crooned a well-heeled patron of the arts as she stepped over a fallen Ginko.
A close inspection of the hatchets revealed the slogan “The only good growth is revenue growth!” “Go at it!” called out Austin Hart, Chair of the Development Review Board who had recently given final approval for the park re-design, as the crowd hacked into Japanese Zelkovas and Honey Locusts with abandon. Kraft, Wagner and Killacky looked on approvingly. “It feels so good to participate in this kind of robust public process,” beamed Kraft.
Image Credits: Josh Grenler.