Trees are natural jungle gyms and water treatment plants.I have a picture in my database of a sign beside an apple orchard. The sign actually is a map of a proposed residential development, with the streets named for the trees cut down to make room for the streets and houses.

Visible behind the sign are the piles of apple trees waiting to be chipped or burned. I left the scene thinking about the kids who will never climb the apple trees.

I was raised at the nether end of a road that terminated in a lake, presuming you followed the directions ending with “after you leave the hard road.” The lake was surrounded by Robert Frost’s “Birches,” “bent low by a boy too far from town to learn baseball / whose only play was what he found himself.”

Such imaginations, I notice in my history books, dwelled within lithe bodies and energetic brains, and gave birth to airplanes and steam engines, and computers and video games.

In 1996, I am told, this nation’s urban dwellers finally gained majority over their rural brethren. I submit we are seeing that shift in the results of this week’s voting, in which Red areas typically are rural and Blue areas are typically urban and suburban.

One difference is that between kids who once would have hiked freely in a forest, and become a tad scared at an unknown rustling among the leaves now have no forest in which to hike, and no rustling leaves. Their only “wildlife” comprises scavenging squirrels and, occasionally, a raccoon or possum. Many of our youth will see larger critters in the “natural settings” of a city zoo or sporting goods store.

Trees offer a few other benefits, as well. Planted along a stream bank, they filter pollutants from stormwater runoff, keeping the water drinkable for humans and other streamside critters. They provide shade to pools wherein trout hide from the midsummer sun. They collect dust from the air, and absorb sound from passing truck and cars.

I received a note in my email this week from Adams County Conservation District Watershed Specialist Joe Hallinan. To rephrase, the Conservation District is continuing its partnership with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Keystone 10 Million Trees Partnership – a program to plant 10 million native trees and shrubs in Pennsylvania by 2025.

The saplings are free, but landowners must agree to allowing their location and pictures to be used in the CBF program to track where trees are planted. The point is that trees planted along, say, a tributary of Marsh Creek make that water cleaner, which means cleaner water in respectively, the Monocacy River, Potomac River, and Chesapeake Bay.

Minimum orders must be submitted to the conservation district, and minimum total orders must be at least 25 trees and shrubs. Each tree and shrub comes with a shelter, stake, zip-ties and bird-netting. Other rules and details are in an application available at the Watershed Alliance of Adams County website or Facebook page.

“We are currently unable to provide support from volunteers or assist in actual planting,” Hallinan wrote, “but we are striving to get native trees and shrubs in the hands of local residents & organizations that have the property and the means to get them planted.”

Clean water, and climbable trees for youth – what’s not to like?!

I remember a night in a Vermont state park, dark as the inside of the Harley’s exhaust, walking to the showers with my 12-year-old son. A rustle in the bushes scared him. I like to think I unscared him.

Kids should be able to walk among rustling trees and taste clean flowing water.

Thanks for sharing the ride. I hope you enjoyed the ride. Comments are welcome, and please feel free to share.