A Frank Take

Providence Takes Whack at Holiday Cheer


This is no way to celebrate the holidays. (istock)

Four weeks before any Halloween candy was even handed out, the city of Providence got the holiday season off to a bah humbug start.

An Oct. 3 press release merrily noted the city wants to cut down two healthy trees to celebrate the holidays. The four-paragraph plea asked the community to sacrifice a spruce or fir tree — preferably between 35 and 45 feet high — to grace the steps of City Hall. The city also asked residents for a 15- to 20-foot spruce or fir for the Providence Rink, for its annual “Christmas Tree Lighting” ceremony.

The city wants a property owner or two, who have enough space to actually have such a beautiful tree growing on their property, to cut them down because the city doesn’t have the foresight to plant a spruce or fir tree near City Hall and the skating rink and decorate them — over and over again for decades — for the holidays.

In keeping with the season of giving, the city noted that “The Forestry Division of the Parks Department will cut the winning tree down and haul it away free of charge.”

It’s a Christmas miracle. And the gift-giving doesn’t end there. The winning tree owners will be photographed with Mayor Brett Smiley in front of their trophy kills. (Smiley did not start this tree-cutting/picture-taking tradition.)

After the holiday season is over, the not-so-evergreen bodies will be mulched, landfilled, or burned.

It’s a Grinch-like scheme.

Unless they are diseased or dying, who gains from chopping down healthy urban trees, especially when the city helps run a biannual tree planting program? It’s a mindless tradition that would work just as well — better, in fact — with living trees.

The city spends a good chunk of the year talking about the importance of planting neighborhood trees and then, because year after year local officials have failed to plant an evergreen in two key spots, wants two semi-mature trees sacrificed for some short-lived amusement.

How about asking residents to instead nominate their favorite street trees and adorn some of those winners with lights?

In fact, perhaps it’s time to end the annual debate about what is better: a dead live tree or a fake plastic one. There’s a third option: a living tree.

If you have the outdoor space, why not buy a spruce, fir, or some other evergreen tree, plant it in your yard, and decorate it for the holidays? For the inside, buy a live indoor Christmas tree-like houseplant, such as a Norfolk Island pine or a lemon cypress, and decorate it year after year. It will save you money, and it will get you on Santa’s nice list.

Note: Hanukkah begins the evening of Dec. 7, Festivus is Dec. 23, and Kwanzaa begins Dec. 26.

Frank Carini can be reached at [email protected]. His opinions don’t reflect those of ecoRI News.


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  1. I couldn’t agree more. Every year in Newport a beautiful, pine gets “sacrificed” to be on display in Washington Square. It brings tears to my eyes every time I drive by it and I always wonder why they don’t simply plant one on the same spot, there is room.

  2. And then there’s Rockefeller Center! They drag a poor helpless tree all the way from Maine. (I know, I’ve lived in both places!). The deal is, change is always good. Struggle is optional, folks. SAVE TREES!

  3. What an awful tradition. That’s for raising this issue and the the creative suggestions.

    Maybe some calls to Smiley’s office asking this annual slaughter to stop could help?

  4. Artificial tree works well for me. Get at least 10-13 seasons out of it and way more resourceful.

    Also planted over a 6 dozen trees this year. New personal best! Plant trees, they’re cool!

  5. Thanks Frank for once again waking me up to a bad idea that I just overlooked.
    Planting a tree to decorate every year makes so much more sense for a city than chopping down a healthy tree.

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