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In War on Trees, Schaunaman Ignores Purpose of Ordinance, Public Wishes Expressed in Comprehensive Plan

In his ongoing war on trees, Aberdeen Mayor Travis Schaunaman goes on KSFY to demonstrate his ignorance of the full benefits of urban green space:

“I don’t think they should have to do no trees, I think that some trees are good for the beautification, but it’s just way too many as it stands,” says Aberdeen Mayor Travis Schaunaman [Ryan Martin, “Aberdeen City Council Working to Change ‘Green Space Ordinance’,” KSFY, 2019.10.04].

Mayor Schaunaman evidently missed what I’ve written here about that trees doing far more than beautify the city. I wouldn’t expect Mayor Schaunaman to step out of his Trumpist Facebook echo chamber to read what I write… but I would expect the mayor—any mayor—to at least read the city ordinance he wants to abolish in favor of asphalt. Aberdeen’s landscape regulations lay out five purposes, only one of which is aesthetic:

Sec. 56-112. -Purpose.

Landscaping regulation is designed to achieve a number of objectives, including:

  1. To maintain and protect property values, create transitions, and reduce the negative impacts of surrounding land uses;
  2. Provide relief from traffic, noise, heat, glare and the spread of dust and/or debris;
  3. Enhance the aesthetic appearance of the city;
  4. Reduce soil erosion; and
  5. Reduce the effects of wind and heat through the provision of shade [City of Aberdeen, Ordinance No. 12-11-07, Article IV: “Landscape Standards,” Section 56-112, retrieved 2019.10.06].

This ordinance declares the city’s compelling interest in improving property values; relieving residents from wind, heat, and dust; and reducing erosion. Beauty matters, but so do all these other advantages that Mayor Schaunaman ignores when he argues for getting rid of trees.

Mayor Schauanaman also appears to ignore the city’s comprehensive plan from 2004, which declares that beauty by itself really matters to the community, as evidenced by comments from Aberdonians:

Simply put, beauty adds value to the community. The appearance of a community is one of the foremost influences of value and, hence, one of its most regarded assets. Residents take pride in their community and its attractive and interesting places. Businesses like to locate in attractive environments, which improve their ability to recruit employees, host clients and investors, and continue to invest in their facilities.

…The character and appearance of Aberdeen are of top priority according to a broad cross section of the community that participated in the key person interviews and community forum…. There is a strong desire to improve the entrances to the community with distinctive gateways, enhance the roadway environs with streetscape improvements, increase the amount of green space adjacent to the rights-of-way and throughout the community, add more landscaping and screening of parking and storage areas, control the size and location of signage, incorporate more public displays of art and community history, better manage the appearance of structures and vacant properties, and diligently enforce the City’s codes [Aberdeen Comprehensive Plan, Chapter 8: “Community Appearance,” 2004.11.10].

The city’s comprehensive plan calls for more trees and green space, not less.

What is so important to Mayor Schaunaman that he would act counter to the clear purposes laid out in city ordinance and the will of the people (not to mention sensible design and development) expressed in the comprehensive plan?

“It causes a lot of trouble with snow removal, it causes a lot of added expense, and it really gets in the way in terms of lighting, in terms of signage, and that sort of thing,” Schaunaman said [Martin, 2019.10.04].

Signage? Marketing? Wait—doesn’t Travis Schaunaman have a day job that involves marketing? Designing things that businesses would put on signs?

Ah, yes, now I see more clearly. Travis Schaunaman thinks his creations are more beautiful than Gaia’s. While the city’s comprehensive plan leans toward greening up Sixth Avenue South:

Sixth Avenue SE, from Google Maps.
Sixth Avenue SE, from Google Maps.

…Mayor Schaunaman’s vision for our community looks more like this:

Welcome to Production Monkeyville®!
Welcome to Production Monkeyville®!

If we’re really worried about snow removal, we’ll start by plowing away Travis Schaunaman’s self-interested snow job. Read the city ordinance, read the comprehensive plan, and read any expert on urban design, and you’ll see that Aberdeen needs more more trees, not fewer.


  1. mike from iowa 2019-10-06 09:31

    Trees also increase/improve habitat for birds and squirrels. They can provide bounteous offerings of fruits and/or nuts for everyone’s consumption. They work like snow fencing to slow down drifting around residences. And the smell of burning leaves leaves an indelible memory of past autumn days of my adolescence.

  2. mike from iowa 2019-10-06 09:36

    I conducted a hasty poll of trees…..ash, maple, blue spruce, mulberry, con color fir and a long dead peach tree and the concensus is plant moar trees., elect less pols of the rape the environment wingnut persuasion.

    My bias suggests iowa trees are wiser in the ways of the world than those farther west and much farther north.

  3. Richard Schriever 2019-10-06 10:04

    As a slight aside, “marketing” =/= advertising. Advertising is a sub-discipline within the marketing discipline – and not really even at its core of competencies. It’s more of an adjunct activity than anything. Of course – presenting advertising as being “marketing” is the application of another element of actual marketing – sometimes called “branding”, for short. So, if your mayor’s professional acumen is really limited to creating advertisement, that’s not really even “marketing”, whether that’s what it is being sold as or not.

  4. Certain Inflatable Recreational Devices 2019-10-06 12:03

    Mike, do you spell “more” as “moar” intentionally, or is “moar” something I am not getting?

  5. mike from iowa 2019-10-06 12:42

    Yes. I stole it without attribution to the writers at yer Wonkette. My personal opinion is this spelling gives the word more propulsion.

  6. Certain Inflatable Recreational Devices 2019-10-06 12:51

    So less is not moar, in this case?

  7. David Newquist 2019-10-06 12:52

    Aberdeen has a Forestry Division [] which recently did an inventory of the silviculture in the town and developed a master plan. One cannot help but wonder how the mayor regards its role in the city. Its web page states:
    “The trees in Aberdeen provide our citizens with cleaner air, reduced environmental stress, higher property values, and a more beautiful community to live in. The continued efforts made by the Forestry Division have earned Aberdeen the Tree City USA designation for over 30 years by the National Arbor Day Foundation.”

  8. Kermit Born 2019-10-06 18:15

    I love what this community is beginning to look like with the addition of landscaping in flat ugly parking lots. We can only imagine what it is going to look like when we begin to see the green ash bore crawling across this city….keep planting

  9. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-10-06 19:38

    Biodiversity! Good additional value, Mike! (But I want the squirrels to stop pooping on my deck furniture.)

  10. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-10-06 19:41

    David, this community’s Forestry Division rocks! We asked them to plant two trees by the curb in front of our house. We got to pick what kind. They planted them and tended them regularly with the water truck, all paid for by our tax dollars. Three years in, those trees are looking good!

    I’ll have to plant a couple more trees in the yard to make up for Schaunaman’s determined deforestation.

  11. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-10-06 19:45

    Marketing, advertising—whatever we call it, no marketing or branding will outweigh the impression potential employers and residents get when they come through a business district completely denuded of trees. Blocks and blocks of nothing but asphalt and signs on an already flat landscape will send a clear message of desolation to newcomers.

    Think about the landscape here in the James River Valley. We’re already flat. There’s nothing to break up the plane of the plains, nothing to hide what’s in the distance and create a sense of mystery and adventure as you drive. We don’t want the entire city to look like Railroad Avenue in our core area. Sure, I get a kick out of running down Railroad Avenue for the sense of a gritty urban warehouse district here, hundreds of miles from anyplace really urban. But then I want to be able to duck back into the comfort of our leafy, good-shady neighborhoods. No one wants a whole town that looks like the warehouse district… or the Aberdeen Mall.

  12. Robert Kolbe 2019-10-06 20:15

    To Whom it may concern
    Phoenix Az is striving to get a 20%
    canapoy in their fine city.

  13. Debbo 2019-10-06 21:42

    Schaunaman must not be very bright.

    Can’t he figure out that there’s a reason every burg treasures its trees? Towns and cities don’t have government department devoted to grass or dirt paths or bushes, but nearly all do have one that pays special attention to TREES!

    Why do you think that is, Schaunaman? Could it be because trees are so valuable? Schaunaman, why do you think builders always plant trees around new housing? Could it be because it sells better?

    Jeez, Aberdeen’s mayor must be dense as a railroad tie.

  14. JW 2019-10-06 22:40

    We invite your clodish mayor to Rapid City where he might learn something about what landscaping, greenways, trees, and aesthetics do to improve a community, property values and visitation. But I’d ask him to leave his empty head and lousy attitude at home.

  15. Donald Pay 2019-10-07 10:44

    I was trying to think where I’d heard anything as creepy as this quote from Schaunaman: “I don’t think they should have to do no trees, I think that some trees are good for the beautification, but it’s just way too many as it stands.” It sounds like something that Mr. Potter would say to George Bailey in “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Maybe by creating a Potterville in Aberdeen, he’s hit on a way to encourage tourism. People will say, “It’s nice to visit, but I sure wouldn’t want to live there.”

  16. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-10-07 12:27

    Pottersville! Yes! That’s exactly the metaphor for the Aberdeen the Schaunamaniacs would create.

  17. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-10-07 12:32

    20% canopy in Phoenix, in the desert? That’s ambition! Can they get trees to grow there? Can they afford to water them? Are there good leafy species that will thrive in the heat and low water?

  18. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-10-07 12:34

    In Sioux Falls, Minnesota and 41st are urban hellscapes specifically because they offer little to no green cover, no pleasant oases of greenspace. If you’re Chamber of Commercing guests in Sioux Falls, you don’t drive your guests down Minnesota as a tour spotlight. You drive them through the pretty places, the leafy places, the green places.

  19. Tage Born 2019-10-07 15:39

    Honestly, as much as I love this community, we have one of the ugliest commercial areas in any community in any state that I have seen.
    Keep planting.

  20. Debbo 2019-10-08 13:08

    Large cities sponsor studies to see what it takes to entice newcomers and lots of trees is always at the top of the list. Actual numbers on the ground and surveys of new residents bear that out. They value trees for their aesthetic, economic and ecologic contributions.

    The obvious conclusion therefore, is that Schaunaman doesn’t want newcomers in Aberdeen. Nor does he want Aberdeen to have the aesthetic, economic and ecologic contributions of trees. In reality, Schaunaman is the anti-mayor.

  21. Donald Pay 2019-10-08 16:46

    I agree about Minnesota Avenue and 41st Street in Sioux Falls. Horrid. Minnesota Avenue used to have an interspersing of businesses and residences with trees, but it was never a nice inviting street, as I remember it from about 1960 on. I remember 41st as mostly residential at one time. In the 60s it started to switch over to the mess that’s there now.

    There was horrid urban planning during my Sioux Falls’ childhood. The ilk of people running the show, which means the government and the real power, the business community, were not into requiring a lot of “beauty.” It was the time where small cities wanted development like McDonald’s and K-Mart, so that the place looked like Anywhere USA. After they got done making the downtown a blight by making Minnesota Avenue and 41st Street a blight, they went in for “urban renewal,” which knocked down perfectly good and historical buildings.

    At any rate, it seems Schaunaman is intent on creating 1960s blight in Aberdeen, rather than encouraging modern development that values trees and natural areas.

  22. Robert McTaggart 2019-10-08 17:08

    Good news….I just planted a columnar Kindred Spirit Oak along with several other plants. I won’t really get to see the show until next year, but I got them in before any snow.

    Only 999,999,999 more trees to go.

  23. Porter Lansing 2019-10-08 17:09

    It can be fun. We got the Boy Scouts and High School cheerleaders to plant trees. Result: Guiness World Record
    ~ An informal goal of the Littleton Crabapple Route was to secure entry in the Guinness Book of World Records for Littleton as the City with the most crabapple trees per capita. Based on an actual census there are almost 7,000 flowering crabapple trees. With Littleton’s population of 42,000, that would mean one flowering crabapple tree for every six residents of the City prompting former Mayor Phil Cernanec to proclaim Littleton “the flowering crabapple capital of Colorado” in 2015!

  24. Robert McTaggart 2019-10-08 17:21

    I don’t think you can beat crabapples for color when they blossom.

    But these days they say look around at what everyone else has planted in the neighborhood, and then plant something else.

  25. Porter Lansing 2019-10-08 17:51

    Most people in town have planted the crabapple trees that don’t make crabapples. Just pretty blossoms. Right, Doc. They’re not as pink as cherry trees but pretty close.

  26. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-10-08 22:34

    Thanks for doing your part, Robert!

    And I really like the advice of looking at what your neighbors are doing and then doing something different.

  27. Robert McTaggart 2019-10-08 23:23

    What can I say…diversity works.

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