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Roots Revealed Blog

Guardians of the Evergreens

Posted: 12/11/2013
Posted By: Judith MacKeigan

Emerald Necklace December 1952

It is a sad fact of life that wherever there are communities of people there are problems with vandalism. Cleveland Metroparks has not been immune from this problem.  In fact the majority of early arrests made by park police (as our rangers were first known) were for vandalism.  Often these acts were committed by bored kids who were just not thinking. Sometimes they were deliberate and malicious acts intended to do great harm.  Bu,t one type of vandalism was committed by people who had a very specific purpose in mind, and probably did not consider themselves to be vandals at all.  These were the Christmas tree bandits who used the park as their own personal tree farm.

"Caught in the act!" (From the smiles, these photos just might have been staged, agreed?)

Perhaps bandit is a strong word; most of these people were law abiding folks who could not see any harm in their actions.  In response park officials used various methods to educate people on the effects of chopping down park trees.  The birth of the Emerald Necklace newsletter in 1952 provided a platform for these messages and almost every December issue throughout the 50s and early 60s included admonitions to leave the trees in the parks. In 1958 an original poem by park engineer Ray Jones, appealed to religious sentiment in his admonition against tree thievery. Some years the parks were actually closed from December 12th through the 25th in an effort to protect the trees.

Article and poetry by Ray Jones in the December 1957 Emerald Necklace


In a related topic a type of plant called either club moss or ground cedar was also taken for use as garlands and other decorations.  Sadly this fern ally, which is propagated via spores, is now very hard to find in Cleveland Metroparks, although a 1967 article proclaimed it was easy to spot at that time. Over the years its population has decreased. In some ways the theft of this ground cover was a bigger threat than the chopping of the trees, as it is all but impossible to replace. For more information on this fascinating plant check out the great Trekohio blog at

Photo courtesy of Deb Pratt at


Public awareness of the issue, combined perhaps with the rise of artificial trees, resulted in lowering of tree theft as the years progressed, but the problem still arises at times.  If your tradition includes the lighting and decorating of a Christmas tree you have many options from which to choose.  So, we hope you will enjoy the many and varied evergreens in their park setting and allow them to provide food and shelter for our wildlife and years of scenic beauty for all our guests.

Art work by naturalist/artist, Fritzi Klopfenstein
Learn more about Fritzi


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