TAKOMA PARK, MD – After the city council revised the tree ordinance to promote growth of the urban canopy, a recent poll suggests existing trees are welcoming of more trees in general, but just not anywhere near them.
“While the city’s long-term trees seem to be open to allowing new trees within the city limits, they are very concerned with density and especially with different species being planted near them,” said local arborist Toby Mattison, speaking for the trees. “While they understand more trees are better for the environment, they’d prefer them to be on the opposite end of town, or better yet, in neighboring Prince George’s County.”
The constant sound of their rustled leaves has earned these older trees the nickname NIMFO, or Not In My Forest, by younger saplings. NIMFOs believe their neighborhoods have reached capacity and resist any changes to the existing urban canopy. In response, newer trees and saplings are fighting back.
“The younger trees feel annoyed that many older trees have forgotten their roots. This was a lush, dense forest when they were growing up, before all of this development happened,” said Mattison. “But as soon as they got well established in the area, they became advocates for forest thinning, which is really just a code word for limiting the types of trees allowed to live here, and started unfairly labeling newer species as invasive.”
Though NIMFOs don’t represent a majority in the city, they are somehow still able to dominate the public debate on urban canopy issues, taking up all the sunlight and casting shadows over their opposition. Some of the most extremist members of the group, or NIMFO Maniacs, have begun to take a much more aggressive approach in their fight against growth by severing branches to smash cars or even sacrificing their own lives to destroy houses in a bid to persuade humans to keep new trees away from their homes.
It remains to be seen what the future holds for Takoma Park, but it’s clear that NIMFOs are digging in to hold onto their lifestyle.
“What we are seeing is a movement away from dense forests and toward spacious areas where every tree has its own lawn and plenty of space to branch out,” said Mattison. “They absolutely don’t want these urban canopists ruining the suburban dream they’ve grown for themselves. If this area becomes a forest, who’s going to rake all the leaves that get generated and haul them away to the curb to keep the front lawn looking nice? These are big concerns facing NIMFOs.”