Cary's Roundabouts

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Chatham Street is the main east/west thoroughfare through Cary's city center. Two roundabouts have been built on Chatham Street, one 800 yards east of the intersection with Academy Street, another 800 yards west of that intersection. They frame the central business district of the Town.

Please see p. 126 of the Imagine Cary Community Plan, which stresses the importance of enhanced gateway entrances to town, and the planting of trees to achieve this goal.

There are two problems with the roundabouts — one that can be remedied and one that cannot.

The problem that cannot be remedied is the ugly profusion of traffic signs near each roundabout. Presumably, the signs are mandated by NCDOT regulations, and must remain in place. I count about 27 traffic-control signs on or near each roundabout that assault the aesthetic sensibilities of drivers and passengers.

The problem that can be rectified is the lack of signature elements within the roundabouts that would serve to define the downtown, brand it as unique, and cause it to be memorable.

I propose that a Dawn Redwood tree be planted in the center of each roundabout. I like the several little Crape Myrtles that are currently planted in the roundabouts, but the reality is that no one will ever take photographs of them with the idea that they are emblematic of the Town of Cary, or even give them more than an uninterested passing glance. Truly, the Devil is in the details, and verily, the gulf between average and beautiful is wide.

Dawn Redwoods in winter

This Dawn Redwood in Boston Public Garden was long admired for its beauty by composer and Boston Pops Orchestra conductor John Williams. In a chance meeting with Harvard botanist Dr. Shiu-Ying Hu, Williams learned it was she who had brought the seed for this tree from China to the Arnold Arboretum in 1947, and that she had transplanted the seedling to this place in the Public Garden when it reached appropriate size. Williams was thus inspired to compose the piece titled Tree Song for Violin and Orchestra" in 2000. Hu died in 2012 at the age of 102. Several million of her seedlings and their offspring survive her.

Treesong for Violin and Orchestra (violin concerto 2), Second movement: Trunks, Branches and Leaves. Composed by John Williams, performed by the Boston Symphony Orchestra; violin solo by Gil Shaham; and conducted by John Williams.

The Dawn Redwood is classified by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature as an Endangered Species. What better way to demonstrate the Town's oft-stated commitment to sustainability than to contribute to the effort to ensure the survival of a threatened species?

Scientists estimate that Dawn Redwoods can live between 500 and 1,500 years. Let us not saddle each succeeding future generation with the obligation and cost of replacing the short-lived Crape Myrtles now planted in the roundabouts at frequent intervals. Let us take the long view.

In several decades, the Dawns will grow to impressive heights, and will serve as landmarks that give the Town of Cary notice, just as the [world's tallest] Dawn Redwood in the gardens of the Biltmore Estate gives the estate notice, and just as the Dawn Redwood in Duke Gardens gives the gardens notice.

Redwoods in western states have been named after important persons. Cary's Dawns in the roundabouts could also be named for significant persons in the Town's history, as for example, The Harold Weinbrecht, and The Ben Shivar, just as California has named a giant Coast Redwood tree The General Sherman and Connecticut has named the largest tree in Connecticut, a Sycamore, The Gifford Pinchot, after the first Chief of the U.S. Forest Service. — Other names of important and dedicated Cary citizens and employees come to mind, for whom beautiful memorials lasting five to 15 centuries would be appropriate.

The purpose of this proposal is to foster and further the proposition that Cary has become a substantial town, and that substantal trees should be nurtured in it to reflect that status.

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Objective #1

That the Town of Cary establish an office whose head reports directly to the Town Manager, dedicated solely to addressing environmental issues. The office will consist of two parts. One part will be a Skunk Works, a group given a high degree of autonomy and charged with devising ways that the Town can move rapidly towards sustainability. The second will be an inspection unit charged with ensuring compliance with sustainability measures undertaken by the Town.

Objective #2

That the Town of Cary establish within its limits a combination botanical garden, arboretum, and tree nursery.

Objective #3

That within the next decade, the Town of Cary properly plant one million additional trees within its borders and nurture them correctly.

Objective #4

That the Town of Cary adopt a long-lived and beautiful noble hardwood tree as its Official Tree.

Objective #5

That the Town of Cary re-start the now-defunct Wake County Champion and Notable Tree List, and that it be administered by volunteers using a donated program and server space.