Question of the Day: What Does Sustainable Cleveland 2009 Look Like, Today?

Submitted by Norm Roulet on Sun, 08/30/2009 - 11:50.

Tree down in Shaker Heights

As Jeff Buster reported on REALNEO, this summer there was some severe weather activity in the Shaker Heights area, where  my parents live, that took down a huge number of huge trees.

The day after the big storm, I was visiting Jordan Pittman, in Glenville, and mentioned my parents lost a big tree that needed removal. I was not suprised that Jordan, being from an especially entrepreneurial family, has a cousin in the tree business. Jordan raises dogs (he bred my Cane Corso, and has South African Boerboel puppies now), and makes dog food, and operates an ice cream shop as part of the family Sister Raffie's Seafood Business, and the family is in excavating and concrete (removed my sidewalk)... I'm sure they have other businesses, as well.

South African Boerboel puppies - 5 weeks old

Within an hour, Jordan's cousin Bryan was in my parents' yard giving an estimate... and I also had him quote removing two trees and some branches at our house in East Cleveland. By 8:00 AM the next morning, the chain saws were roaring.

Brian and team

Bryan's company, Perfect Concrete and Construction - 216-509-6402... tell him Norm sent you - is a small, minority-owned, entrepreneurial venture my family is glad to support. They operate with limited equipment, keeping their carbon footprint small - a climber (52 years old, classy and completely amazing) does the work of bucket trucks, everything is roped down, and people remove the wood by hand.

I asked Bryan what he does with the wood and branches of the trees they remove and, depending on the community and their rules, he takes all the wood-chips to sites like at Shaker, for community use, and he takes the wood to people who use it to heat their facilities - much of it is used for a warehouse with wood-burners in Cleveland. So nothing is wasted, nothing goes into landfill, and nothing moves any firther than necessary... this is Star Neighborhood Energy at its best.

They quickly cleared my parents' site and left the branches in proper condition for Shaker pick-up. The logs were all sawed to length for splitting, and I called a neighbor and REALNEO member  to pick them up, as he has a splitter and burns wood. I assume Shaker will mulch and use the braches they picked up, so all the waste should be valuably reused in the community. One historic tree lost, but put to good reuse.

To make optimal use of Bryan's equipment and crew, that day, they proceeded to East Cleveland to remove trees and branches in our yard. While these were not damaged in the storm, they were unhealthy and dangerous, limited productive growing area in our yard, and were causing harm to our house and risks for our neighbors... this was for proactive site and neighborhood improvement.

As soon as Bryan cut the main trunk of our largest tree - a badly worn Silver Maple - we knew we had made the right decision... while appearing alive, it was entirely hollow inside. Any good storm could have sent it falling on the house across the street... does our insurance protect us well from such a disaster.

How many of the trees in our community are in as poor of condition, and so ready to kill? On my street, it appears many.

We had Bryan chip all the branches removed from our site and dump them in our front yard, and we used them in our landscaping. The tree trunk was so hollow as to be worthless for firewood, but we saved the slices for planters. One dangerous tree gone, and many benefits gained.

Because we brought Bryan to our street to remove our trees, showing interest in our property, other neighbors came over to our job site and asked him to bid on work at their houses. Before this one day was over, Bryan's company removed one more distressed Silver Maple (and arranged to have the wood picked up by a wood-burner) and two stumps from properties across the street from our house, and this week they removed another distressed Silver Maple and stump from a yard down the block - this one as hollow as ours.

When disaster struck in Shaker, from one phone call within my real local community network, an entrepreneur got at least five new accounts, paying him $1,000s, solving problems in Shaker and East Cleveland in a fast, professional and excellent way, and our neighborhoods are all better and safer for that.

Are there lessons to be learned?

How many aspects of "sustainability" and green job creation do you see in action here, and what are the potentials for more?

A few days after the Shaker twister, I met a Councilman from Shaker and I asked him if he has considered the seriousness of the problem of the age of the trees in this century-old Cleveland suburb (meaning most trees are over 100), and that changing weather patters will bring severe storms that will bring down more dying trees, in the coming weeks, years and decades, and how Shaker will address and plan for the processing and loss of 10,000s of heritage trees now core to the identity of the community.

He looked at me like I was speaking Russian.

We are not having the conversations in our community needed to plan for its sustainability.

Yet property owners and their neighbors may not ignore the problem.

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Great article

  Inspiring story--thank you for taking the time to put this out there. A lot of entrepreneurs are operating under the radar.  I am afraid that we have to keep this underground network a secret, sometimes.  I am going to assume that to contact this company, we should contact you, Norm--unless Brian wants the advertising here. 

Scary picture of the Silver Maple :( I live in the shadow of one of these fast growing trees, which were misused in city landscaping (bottomland/floodplain trees with shallow root systems).  There are going to be a lot of old trees falling in the City of Cleveland.  Department of Urban Forestry is not what it used to be.

Bryan certainly welcomes more business

I called Bryan and asked if he wanted his phone number posted online and he said sure - he is definitely always looking for more customers - feel free to call him at 216-509-6402 and tell him Norm on Roxbury sent you.

Disrupt IT

old trees

Good reminder to bring this up again to neighbors. We have huge old trees on my street that everyone loves. I have been bringing up the need to plant more, but I get the same reaction that Norm did. About 15 years ago the City came through and planted some really awful small trees that have long thorns and the flowers smell like dead fish (the odor wafts down the street). The berries are beneficial to the birds so we try to accept them. These are not a good substitute for the huge shade trees that we need to replace.