Photos courtesy of Sean Brody.
This is the cotton tree that towers over the Robertsport Community Campsite, a piece of land that Robertsport Community Works is invested in conserving through the creation of a conservation easement. Conservation easements are legal agreements that restrict the usage of property. Ours would ensure that no permanent structures are built on the land, that no trees of a certain age be cut down, that indigenous species be encouraged and that the community of Robertsport retain access and usage rights. We're working on the details, so stayed tuned.
Back to the tree. When I first saw a photo of this cotton tree -- the tree that the American Colonization Society tied its ship to when it landed in Liberia in the late 19th century, the supposed spot where Joseph Jenkins Roberts, the first president of Liberia for whom Robertsport was named, stepped off -- something clicked in my decision-making process about moving to Liberia. My worries about living in a post-conflict country were replaced by this magnetism: I needed to hang out next to that tree. That I've heard a few other people speak about it in the same way makes me feel less illogical.
This massive cotton tree is estimated to be over 500 years old. It would have to be, in order for it to be big enough for the first Americo-Liberians to anchor their ship off of it. Trees like this often end up as raw materials for fishing boats. At Robertsport Community Works, we're starting to make a series of Cotton Tree t-shirts -- each batch the outline of a different ancient cotton tree -- to promote awareness and work towards their conservation. Email me if you want one or check out The African T-Shirt Company in a week or two for details.