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Hang out with trees

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There is a park bench on The Mall, the only straight road within Central Park in New York City, dedicated to Regina Alvarez. It was a stranger who made the donation, and the plaque simply reads: “Regina Alvarez who cares for the park”. I met Alvarez who has worked at the Central Park Conservancy for 19 years, through an app called Detour, which takes you on a guided tour of an area and lets you in on little details which you might otherwise entirely miss.

Alvarez works to save the American elms — graceful, stately trees, whose branches are known as “habits”. Dig a little deeper and you will find the elms were popular in the 19th century, so much so that by the 20th century many American streets were lined with only elms and the shade resembled the insides of a Cathedral ceiling. But the Dutch elm disease in the 1950s was its downfall, and soon elm after elm was knocked down — minced into little pieces by a fungal disease, or chewed up by beetles.

So on a nippy Friday morning, on the same day that the Union government here expressed its intention to fell thousands of trees to make way for a housing project in Delhi, I was learning about a “living museum” and staring up at some of the last surviving American elms. “Keeping those magnificent trees alive requires tremendous planning and labour,” the narrator Adrian Benepe, who served as Commissioner of Parks, said. “This is the perfect example of the hard work required to maintain the vision of those who created Central Park,” he........

© Indian Express