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Old homes and heritage trees: A park (and counter) example

Five years after its majestic beech trees were cut down in a midnight “slaughter,” the West Market Street corner, at State of Franklin Road in Johnson City, is being developed for a mart-plus-pharmacy. Although multiple establishments of this type are operating within a mile of the site the ancient trees, irreplaceable in many generations’ lifetime, were deemed to have to make way for more “progress.”
Visiting a venerable old Saxon town, Muskau eastward of Dresden, one finds it surrounded by a landscaped park of nearly 1,400 acres. It contains an arboretum and gardens, large meadows, fields and farms, but also baths and other “pleasure-ground” amenities, along with the restored castle of its creator, Prince Hermann von Puckler-Muskau. Commemoration his birth there 225 years ago is part of a year-long celebration in the town.
The park is one among the treasured World Heritage sites (UNESCO) protected by international treaty. As Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains National Park has such standing and protection as a “natural area,” the Muskau park is a “cultural area.”
Traversed by the Neisse River which separates Poland from Germany since the end of World War II, bridges connect the park’s Mazukowski and Muskau areas. Among the Prince founder’s design principles, elaborated in “Hints on Landscape Gardening,” was that bodies of “fresh and clear water, whether stream or lake, greatly increase [any park’s] charm.”
Puckler had traveled widely in his youth, including in the United States and the British Isles, where he studied the great English estates, and in north-African and near-Eastern countries and continental Europe. A great lover of Nature, he would learn how she expressed her magnificence in other climes and seek to understand how her mysteries and forces molded other cultures. A prolific writer who authored scores of books, he devoted the three decades between 1815 and 1844 to development of the park.
His design approach was to capitalize on the landscape’s “own peculiar capacity for beauty” by maintaining natural features of terrain, trees and other plants native to it, the farmed landscape and buildings reflective of the history and industry of the place and region. It is regarded as having significantly influenced the development of the art of landscape architecture in Europe and North America, including America’s famed Frederick Law Olmstead whose “sparkle of genius” created New York’s Central Park.
Prince Puckler had a passion for old trees and held that “genuine old houses [too, should be] preserved in their ancient character.” A man is fortunate, he wrote, “to whom his forbears have bequeathed lofty woods of old oaks, beeches and lindens, standing still untouched by the woodman’s murderous axe. He should cherish them as the apple of his eye, for neither money nor power can restore an oak a thousand years old in its wonderful majesty after the poor laborer has felled it. Terrible and swift is the destructive power of man, but poor and weak is his power to rebuild.”
One appreciates that a small town, Jonesborough, preserves its historic buildings and heritage trees.