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Latarski: Billboards versus trees
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Just in case you missed it, a bill has been introduced in the General Assembly allowing trees which are blocking billboards to be cut down.

The bill is very restrictive in nature and calls for specific parameters on the size of the tree and the area where they may be cut.

The cutting will be limited to small trees. I suppose the idea is if you can cut small trees down quickly, they don't have the opportunity to grow into big trees that you are not allowed to cut down.

No doubt advertising companies see this as much needed legislation so their mega-signs along I-75 can alert drivers to the outlet mall, fleabag motel or nude dancing Ya-Ya Club at the next exit.

There is no question consumers need to know what services are available along the roadway but I suspect if the huge billboards did not exist, people interested in finding the outlet mall, fleabag motel and most certainly the Ya-Ya-Club would be able to do so without the benefit such signs.

While advertising may be important to the success of a business, many of our roadways have been assaulted by billboards to the point they could be considered upright litter.

Yet hardly a day goes by when a city council or county commission is not petition by someone asking for yet another of the visual monstrosities to be erected.

You might argue reading the signs are a distraction that can help keep you alert, especially those advertising the Ya-Ya Club, and they may make a decent place for birds to rest.

And you can argue there are times when a billboard might help someone who is traveling actually find a business they are seeking. But a small sign would probably do just as well because the person is actually looking for the business in question.

In reality, mega-billboards are an assault on the senses, a distraction that lacerates the eye and is ruinous to nature.

These signs in metropolitan areas do not seem burdensome because if they blot out a building behind them, who cares?

But seeing a massive billboard rising above a stand of trees is like seeing a cockroach in your soup.

Of course they can be entertaining in ways the advertiser did not intend when you see a billboard changed because of the ravages of time or weather.

Seeing a billboard advertising a car dealership that is suppose to read, "We will make the trip you made pay off," turned into, "We will rip you off," or "Burgers you can't beat" reading "Burgers you can't eat," might speak more truth about the business than the owner intended.

This is not to say the public should not be made aware of the various products and businesses available to those traveling the roadways. Economics of business demands such advertising.

But as with most things there are limits and even an untrained eye can see the limit has been reached.

Cutting away small tress to protect existing signs may be the least of the various egregious options available because removing the signs or putting a moratorium on their erection is not going to happen.

It is sad to think a tree, even a small one, has to die so we can be advised the Ya-Ya Club is at the next exit. Too bad we can't get legislation calling for the cutting down of billboards.

Ric Latarski is a freelance writer who writes on a variety of topics and can be reached at