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When nature is in your schoolyard [Letter]

I read with great interest the letter by Nicole Goodman ("Spare the Dumbarton trees," Aug. 2) about the trees at Dumbarton Middle School. She referred to the Dumbarton grounds as the "backyard of my childhood."

I grew up across the street from Yorkwood Elementary School in Baltimore. Like Nicole, I regard the beautiful grounds of my school, with its large, shady trees, and the bird sanctuary behind the playground, as the backyard of my childhood.

Huge old trees, urban woodlots and trees in our yards and on our streets have a value almost impossible to express for children. My childhood was magical. We spent all our free time among the trees in the school yard and the bird sanctuary, practically living in the branches of an ancient beech. In segregated Baltimore of the 1950s, it was a place where black and white kids could play together because our parents were nowhere to be seen.

Although I grew up in the city, those trees made me what I am today. I became a forest scientist and have spent my life studying trees and advocating for their conservation.

Kids have too little exposure to nature. Many children grow up to think of nature as something you visit on field trips. Having big old trees right in your school yard is of enormous value, far greater than the value of convenient parking.

When we cut down magnificent trees and replace them with asphalt, we tell our kids that nature is less important than parking. Taking those trees down at Dumbarton is an insult to childhood.

Tom Kimmerer, Lexington, Ky.

The writer is chief scientist of Venerable Trees, Inc.

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