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“Trees Are Our Harbor: Celebrating Atlanta’s Natural Identity” by Joe Thomas

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Joe ThomasAtlanta BeltLine visionary Ryan Gravel is fond of saying that while Atlanta lacks the river, coastal, or mountain features of many major American cities, we do have a natural feature that defines us – our trees. My mom tells a story that many of us have heard before. Her best friend from high school, now a resident of the Dallas area (a city often unfairly equated with Atlanta), exclaimed upon flying into Hartsfield-Jackson “it’s so GREEN from above!” As many times as I’ve heard visitors say this, it will never get old. It fills me with pride, not as a tree advocate, but as an Atlantan. It’s the same as when I go to Denver and marvel over the Rockies, or Chicago and have to remind myself that Lake Michigan is a lake, not an ocean.

What we are talking about is the natural identity of our city. Boston has its harbor (or HAH-bah), San Francisco has the bay, and Pittsburgh has three rivers. Atlanta is in a forest. If we begin to think of our canopy in this way, it becomes less a collection of individual trees, and more a unit of civic pride. We truly become the” city in the forest”

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