Daniel Geary was aghast when he arrived home in early September to find that the Missoula Parks and Recreation Department had cut down 17 Norway maples on city land surrounding his home at the base of Mount Jumbo. The move eliminated a natural buffer that hid his yard from the eyes of hikers walking up and down the "L" Trail, making the long-time Rattlesnake resident feel extremely vulnerable.
"I don't want to see the fat old bald guy in a towel bending over to turn off his hose," Geary says about what hikers are now exposed to. "No one wants to see that, or be seen as that."
Geary jokes, but he's dead serious about his recently launched campaign to save Norway maples near his home. In fact, he's launched a campaign and is pushing for a moratorium on cutting in his neighborhood. He's writing letters to neighbors, the Missoula Department of Parks and Recreation and City Council members. He even recently staged a protest at a firewood giveaway hosted by the city's Urban Forest Division. He brought a 78-year-old friend, five protest signs and a stump left over from a much-loved maple the city cut down.
"I want them to get the moratorium on the books while it's still fresh," he says.
For the past several years, city arborists have been cutting down Norway maples in Greenough Park, the South Hills and, most recently, in woody drainages at the base of Mount Jumbo, near Geary's house. The deciduous tree grows like a weed when well watered. Because of its hardiness, the Norway maple beats out native species in the fight for survival. That's troubling for open lands managers like Missoula Parks and Recreation Director Donna Gaukler, who say when left to thrive, the leafy maple takes over.
Gaukler says it's important to see that the trees that once surrounded Geary's yard, like the invasive knap weed, had the potential to spread and, ultimately, affect the entire Missoula Valley.
While not calling a moratorium, as Geary would like, city staffers have been working to ease his concerns and improve area esthetics, planting chokecherry, juniper and western maple around his house.
"I clearly do recognize that people do fall in love with trees," Gaukler says. "I get that."