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    Letter: Park values trees

    Wesley Hopper - The Commercial Appeal -

    It is good to hear input from the patrons of Shelby Farms Park and how they feel about the different projects that go on in the park (Nov. 8 letter, "Destroying trees?"). I have loved Shelby Farms since the first time I visited with my high school senior class in 1979. I loved the trees, the wildlife and the feeling of the great outdoors right in the middle of the city. Since then, I've made it my career to understand how trees work and what it takes to manage a successful urban forest.

    It's a common perception to think that if you leave trees alone they can take care of themselves, but that isn't always the case. The threat of invasive exotic species is serious and so must be our response. That is why such emphasis is placed on the overgrowth of the Chinese privet, and why other plants cannot grow underneath them. Sometimes a tree species will be removed in the process of a depopulation of an invasive species due to its location or health.

    A trained horticulturist supervises all privet removal projects at Shelby Farms Park, and I serve as an expert adviser. Please feel confident that even though portions of Shelby Farms Park's vista may change, the health of the forest is always the priority. In fact, Shelby Farms Park Conservancy has planted more than 7,000 trees in the last couple of years, with plans to plant 1 million.

    Wesley Hopper