Trees are something that we tend to take for granted with the exception of the Christmas tree when we take pride in selecting the perfect conifer for our home and dress it up like a hopeful pageant contestant. We benefit from trees far more than simply making them a household decoration. Remember those grade school days of studying how trees produce oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide, how they reduce the “heat island” effect by providing shade, how urban runoff and erosion are reduced by trees storing water and breaking the force of rain as it falls. Did you also know that trees tell stories? Some of the oldest trees, dating over 5,000 years old, are living witnesses to our planets’ history and evidence of our culture.
The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing the public’s awareness and understanding of the importance and irreplaceable legacy of America’s cultural landscapes. The organization provides people with the ability to see, understand, and value landscape architecture and its practitioners, in the way many people have learned to do with buildings and their designers. Every year, the foundation organizes a Landslide exhibit, which highlights significant landscapes that are little known or at risk of being significantly altered or even demolished.
The theme for the 2010 Landslide was Every Tree Tells a Story. The exhibit focuses on the irreplaceable trees and tree groupings, often associated with historically important people and events that have shaped the development of communities and cultures. The exhibition features 26 images of 12 different locations in the US and Puerto Rico. It is currently touring the US and is on view at the 21c Museum in downtown Louisville until January 8th. Twelve prize-winning and renowned photographers were commissioned to capture these seminal trees and tree groupings and local photographer Bob Hower was one of them.
Bob Hower, who is a partner at Quadrant Photography and who is also a part of the Parklands at Floyd’s Fork Project, took photographs of the Olmsted Parks and Parkways which feature some of the towering trees of Cherokee, Shawnee, and Iroquois. Hower’s images capture the splendor of these natural beauties while bringing to light the man-made and natural elements that threaten them.
The parks took a beating in 2008 when Hurricane Ike claimed many of the enormous Olmsted-era trees. Shortly after that, ice storms claimed even more. The loss of these mature trees has left significant gaps in the historic spatial organization of the park, which reduces the integrity of the famed Olmsted design. In addition, some of these aging trees bear the mark of graffiti from park goers who can’t resist the temptation of carving their name into their trunks.
Concurrently to the photo exhibit, an outdoor signboard exhibition based on the Landslide photography is being featured at Yew Dell Gardens, Crestwood, KY, and runs through December 31st. The signboard exhibit highlights the history, threat, and ways to become involved with 12 trees and tree collections across the country.
The Olmsted Parks are always in need of volunteers to restore, enhance, and preserve the great green spaces we have come to enjoy and love. No experience needed. The next volunteer opportunity will be at Cherokee Park on Dec. 3rd. Click on the link for more details, http://www.olmstedparks.org/events/.
Photo: Bob Hower