Life in The Maple City: A Historical Lens on Our Budding Forest

Life in The Maple City: A Historical Lens on Our Budding Forest
Wait, could this actually be spring? Well it’s 60 degrees, I’ve whipped out the Tevas, and I’m sitting outside to write this – so at least for today, I’m calling it spring in Goshen.

Every spring I’m amazed how happy the sun’s warmth can make me feel. The trees are still as bare as the winter but scilla and squirrels are popping up, giving some color and life to the land. Birds are chirping, drivers have their windows down, and students are sprawled out on the campus lawn. It’s a good time to be in Goshen.

After last week’s post, I’ve been thinking about trees a lot. Looking up is an interesting and welcomed change of pace. Goshen College’s campus trees extend up into the sky almost completely covering the little blue of the cloudy sky. Walking to and from classes, I’ve also been thinking about how important trees are to the economics and aesthetics of every place and every time. Like the sun today, they provide happiness – whether they be sprinkled with snow, laden with leaves, or simply standing bare.

Looking around on campus I’m struck with the idea that others decades ago planted these huge trees. In Aaron Sawatsky-Kingsley’s Goshen News column, the Naturalized Mid-American, he often reflects on Goshen’s trees and their stories. In “A tree with a history tied to Kunderd gladiolus farm,” he describes the fruitful life of an elm tree over the past 50 years.

Scilla blooming on GC campus, April 11th 2018

If you find yourself wondering about tree pasts too, you’re in luck – the rest of this post is going to be about our urban forest history.

Our trees’ benefits are exciting but sadly their history does not begin that way. The history of how our trees came to be starts with our shared American history of human and environmental genocide. Our present actions hope to honor and celebrate Native American lives and native landscapes we shattered, but the ecological devastation around us still has a long way to go.

The Land of Goshen was founded in 1831. That name, along with the tree population in the area, was eventually reduced. The forest cover in Goshen was diminished to 2% during the first half of the 1800s. By the 1900s, people began to realize what trees could mean for Goshen. More and more plantings, especially of maples, were happening all over our part of the world. But only Goshen would come to be known as The Maple City. During a talk at Greencroft in late 2017, our city forester went into depth about our forest’s history. You can watch that video or read the transcript here.

In the late 20th century, mayors and interested citizens alike pushed us to accept our namesake of The Maple City. Seeing the potential of our urban forest, they created the Goshen Tree Board. The momentum did anything but slow once Aaron Sawatsky-Kingsley was hired in 2006 as our first city forester. With Aaron’s teachings and urgings, more and more people are engaging with the land they live on. In “Nostalgia swamps grandson during morning prayers,” he emphasizes how much has changed in our landscape over past generations. Trees that were just sticks are now 35-foot giants.

Within the past few years, our Parks & Recreation Department has been working hard to help our urban forest blossom. The 2014-2018 Master Plan for our parks outlines the ways our city is making a better future for us. This nurturing of our Maple City has helped create and will continue to create notable landscapes, intimate parks, and senses of ownership and pride in our beautiful city. 

Check out the other Posts in this Series

Life in The Maple City: Looking Forward

Now that we know about the scientific data and history surrounding the trees of Goshen, it’s time to look at what we can do to help our urban forest thrive. With the tools of the Guide, we can read about so many different aspects of the urban forest, but we need to also take the time to put that knowledge into practice.

Life in The Maple City: A Historical Lens on Our Budding Forest

Looking around on campus I’m struck with the idea that others decades ago planted these huge trees. In Aaron Sawatsky-Kingsley’s Goshen News column, the Naturalized Mid-American, he often reflects on Goshen’s trees and their stories. In “A tree with a history tied to Kunderd gladiolus farm,” he describes the fruitful life of an elm tree over the past 50 years.

Life in The Maple City: Benefits of an Urban Forest

Welcome to the first installment of “Life in The Maple City!” Today I hope to give a brief overview of what the Goshen Guide has to offer us, and also dive into the perks that come along with an urban forest.

Life In The Maple City: A Tree City U.S.A.

I’m excited to share that April is going to be a month for celebrating trees. Each week, I will highlight an aspect of our trees that helps make our city “The Maple City.” Thanks to our urban forest, Goshen has been named a Tree City U.S.A. by the National Arbor Foundation for over two decades.

About The Author

Anna Shetler

Anna Shetler is a Goshen native finishing her final year at Goshen College. As an Interdisciplinary major with focuses in Biology, Chemistry, and Psychology, she has come to learn and love the various connections that can be made across disciplines. Anna is a intern at the Community Resilience Guild, helping to develop the Goshen Guide.

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