Sycamore Tree Blows into Pool in Chico

A 50-year-old sycamore tree fell into Sycamore Pool in Chico, California on June 18, 2012. The tree is one of several sycamore trees that line the pool, thus the name. The large, leafy canopy of the tree caught the wind and caused the tree to break at its weakest point. The city had to remove an estimated 5,000 lbs of tree from the pool, which cost the city approximately $1,200 out of a budget of $700,000 for tree maintenance.

Chico has many sycamore trees that are decaying. The sycamore that fell had a fungus that is believed to have infected the tree during a previous break in the trunk. Denice Britton, urban forest manager for the city of Chico, said that the decaying trees need to be trimmed regularly to decrease the risk of injury from tree failure. “We have a huge backlog of tree work in Chico and it needs to be done,” Britton said.

Although this tree has fallen, the rest of the sycamore trees around the pool will not be trimmed until the fall. The last time they were pruned was in 2008. Britton remarked, “You know, the trees are old and they have a lot of decay and we don’t have a lot of funding to do pruning.”

The fallen sycamore will be turned into mulch and the stump will be ground down and covered with soil. It is thought that the sycamore may grow back.

Mapping to Proactively Reduce Sudden Oak Disease and Death

Designed to help protect historic heritage trees, a comprehensive map, called SODMAP, details the spread of sudden oak death – a tree-killing microbe. The disease is spreading from the forested hills into residential areas all over the Bay Area, and it has already killed hundreds of thousands of oak trees from southern Oregon to Big Sur. The map is to be updated annually to track the movement of the disease, which will help cities and counties plan projects to keep the disease from spreading and to preserve healthy trees.

The disease, most aggressive during the rainy season, was discovered in Mill Valley in 1995. It kills both big oak trees and the smaller tan oaks. Other plants, like the California bay laurel, camellia, and rhododendron, are host plants of the disease. Any oak less than 0.6 miles from the disease is at a high risk of becoming infected. The disease is also spread through the water. Arborists and ecologists predict that in 25 years, 90% of California’s live oaks could die from the disease.

This map may counteract this worst-case scenario. “People need to know that if they can take action before their trees are infected, then they can really slow down the rate of infection and minimize the number of trees that are infected,” says MatteoGarbelotto, a UC Berkeley forest pathologist who helped create the map. “The biggest hindrance to protecting oaks is that people don’t think about it until the trees are infected, so the more we let people know there are these tools, the more they will know they can do things to make things better.”

There are three recommendations to help mitigate the spread of the disease:
1. Remove California bay laurels that are near oaks – this increases the survival rate of oaks tenfold.
2. Use phosphonate spray – it’s effective against the disease.
3. Avoid big projects like soil removal, grading, or tree pruning during the rainy season in infected areas.

Maintaining Kalispell’s Urban Forest

Kalispell, Montana received the honorable recognition of “Tree City” for the last 25 years. The city maintains its trees with an urban forest budget under the city’s Parks and Recreation Department. Kalispell is continually dealing with cleanup from windstorms as well as tree pruning, tree removal, and new tree plantings. Years ago, the city’s goal was to prune its trees at least once every seven years. So far, that goal has not been reached. “We want to develop a forestry program where we can address these tree calls, because the branches are hanging over sidewalks, these trees need to be pruned or removed. There is a whole gamut of stuff here that we need to do.” Says Mike Baker, Kalispell’s director of Parks and Recreation Department.

Maintaining the urban forest by replanting trees in spots where trees were removed is a long-term challenge. At the moment, more than 2000 vacant tree spots need to be replanted, and last year only 53 trees were planted. Residents put their names on a waiting list to get a tree planted. The wait used to be two years, but this has now been reduced to one year by having the people who request a tree assume part of the cost. A number of people have taken advantage of this program.

Dutch elm disease is also a factor in the city’s tree maintenance. Over the last five years, about 250 American elms have been removed. Previously, the city received state grant money for these removals, but the cost is being shifted back to the city. The elms are inventoried every year and if there is even one branch that is still green, the city doesn’t mark it for removal. If the city doesn’t find any other funding for the removal of these large American elms, these costs will be a large part of the urban forest budget.

“We’ve got a lot of balls in the air right now,” said Baker. “We’re doing the best we can. We’re still protecting our urban forest, but it’s going to need more attention, and that’s critical to guarantee these trees will be around for a long time.”

Trees Cut to Make Room for Endeavour

On the final leg of its journey from the Kennedy Space Center, space shuttle Endeavour will be moving on the ground from the Los Angeles International Airport to the California Science Center. In order to make the move, trees along the route need to be taken down. The shuttle is scheduled to move in October and expected to take two days to complete this part of its journey. So far, 128 trees have been removed in Inglewood and another 131 trees will be removed near the Los Angeles International Airport.

Although some residents aren’t pleased to be loosing the shade trees, many city officials are relieved to have them down. Most of the Inglewood trees being removed are ficus, which develop large roots that are destructive to sidewalks, street pavements, and sewer lines. “Ficus are very aggressive on city infrastructure,” said Mawusi Watson, executive assistant to the city manager. “We’re happy to have those removed.”

Because the shuttle is five stories high and has a wingspan of 78 feet, traffic lights and signals are also being removed. When planning the route, California Science Center President and CEO Jeffrey N. Rudolph said the priority was always given to preserving the trees. The California Science Center is paying for the removal and replanting of the trees. The Center has agreed to plant two higher quality trees for every tree removed. The replacement trees will be evergreens, water gums, queen palms, and various other trees.


Pine Tree Falls on Convertible During Tropical Storm Debby

As tropical storm Debby moved through Tampa Bay on June 26, 2012, trees succumbed to the wind. One such tree was a large pine tree on Crenshaw Lake Road of US 41. The pine tree broke in half and fell on top of a Mustang convertible travelling on the road, trapping 58-year-old Diana Lewis in the passenger seat of the car. The driver, Melissa Lewis, also sustained injuries.

Mike Wiggen, who lives near the scene of the accident, heard the crash and came to help. “I heard a smash and then I hearn a car horn. I hear this lady screaming ‘help me, help me, help me.’” Says Wiggen. He and other neighbors and drivers pried the convertible top back and picked up limbs that were pinning Diana Lewis down.

Melissa was treated and released from the hospital, but Diana was listed in serious condition.

The car sustained about $10,000 worth of damage, according to the Sheriff’s Office.


Neighborhood Complaint Becomes Township Issue

Kathy Goodwine, a resident in Robbinsville, complained over a year ago to council members about trees in her area that were lifting sidewalks. The issue soon became a township wide issue, because trees in other areas of the town were also causing sidewalk lift.

To address the problem, the council looked at sidewalks in various areas and then sent out surveys to residents who live in areas with hazardous sidewalks. The survey had four options available to recommend: sidewalk grinding, root shaving, sidewalk realignment, and tree replacement. Sidewalk grinding would only be an option when the sidewalk uplift was less than 2 inches. The tree replacement option would entail choosing trees that would be better suited to grow in confined spaces. Each of these options had pros and cons. So far, residents have sent in 56 completed surveys.

The tree/sidewalk issue has been found to be very divisive and not easily solved. Trees provide shade, nesting habitat, and are aesthetically appealing. Sidewalks provide safety and increase the value of the adjacent home. Together, sidewalks and trees can become a hazard.

Whichever decision the township finally makes in addressing the sidewalk repair problem, the homeowner or homeowner’s association will be responsible for future repairs.


Lititz Borough to use Root Containing Device for Planting?

A new method for containing shade tree roots is being considered for use in planting trees in Lititz Borough, Pennsylvania. The new method is called the StrataCell and was developed in Australia by Citygreen in 2009. The StrataCell is a plastic interlocking device that is intended to keep roots from spreading outward and lifting sidewalks, roads, and driveways. Their Shade Tree Commission presented the borough council with this idea. During the presentation, the borough was told that a Citygreen representative would be willing to come to Lititz to help with installation of the interlocking devices for a pilot program. The only concern is that the cost of installation is unknown.

There is one home in the borough that has already decided to use the StrataCell in a pilot program. Residents will be able to see the new device in use, where it is being used to plant a shade tree near the sidewalk. Engineers have calculated that this device will support pedestrian and pavement traffic loads while providing more space for the extensive root growth of large canopy trees. This device has two tiers that lock together and form a framework that offers vertical and lateral strength.

So far, few municipalities have started using this device. “Mostly it is being used by developers. But I see uses for programs like our Shade Tree Commission.” Said George Biemesderfer. “It’s not cheap, but it’s a good alternative.”


Eminent Domain Cases on the Rise

Eminent domain is a controversial issue for agricultural landowners – it gives public entities the right to acquire private property for public purposes, such as for highways, utility lines, etc. Frequently, agricultural production is adversely impacted due to loss of land, the inability to use current equipment for production, or the splitting up of the land.

Covey Neatherlin experienced the loss of 100 of his best pecan trees to eminent domain four years ago. This occurred when a pipeline company cut a mile-long, 60-foot-wide swath through his 200-acre farm to bury a 42-inch diameter natural gas pipeline 4 feet underground. Not only is he unhappy with the seizing of his property, but he is also upset that he wasn’t compensated for the lost trees, which he had spent 45 years nurturing. The company refused to compensate for the trees because a previous court ruling had set a precedent that a condemning authority did not have to pay for removal of the trees.

Eminent domain cases involving electrical transmission lines and gas pipelines have become more frequent in the last couple of years, states attorney Alan Ackerman. “My firm probably handled fewer that 50 eminent domain cases involving electrical transmission lines during my first 35 years of practice. During the past three years, we’ve had at least 130.” In 2005, a controversial US Supreme Court ruling now allows for private property to be condemned for private property development.

There are many ways for private property owners to prepare if they have land targeted for condemnation.

City and Business Work Together on Sidewalk Repair

The city of Powell, Wyoming has been working with business owners in the city to come up with a plan to fix the sidewalk damage problem downtown. The last time the city worked with the businesses on the trees and sidewalks was in 1993, when the businesses voted on a $1.5 million beautification project. At the time, the businesses also agreed to maintain the sidewalks in front of their properties.

This time, Councilman John Wetzel suggests that the city cover 75 percent of the sidewalk repair, while businesses pay 25percent. One issue still not resolved is that the city does not allow a business to decide when a tree should be taken down, even though the trees are the cause of the sidewalk damage.

When the repairs are being done, tree roots will be trimmed, some trees will be replaces, and concrete and tree grates will be repaired. The city will also be looking at root retaining systems that make roots grow down instead of out. An arborist and the city’s tree board will be consulted to decide what the right solution will be. The city is working with the business owners to determine which areas need to be repaired.

Councilmembers reiterated the importance of keeping the downtown beautiful and pedestrian friendly. “We do have a beautiful downtown,” said Councilman Floyd Young. City Administrator Zane Logan added, “And we want to keep it that way.”


Tree Preservation

tree preservation under construction photo

tree preservation under construction photo

The city of Cambridge, Ontario has decided that it needs a bylaw that protects trees from being cut down by residents and developers. This policy change has come about after past concerns were aired from tree removals on construction sites and from the recent tree removals at the Hill Manor nursing home. The Hill Manor nursing home is a long-term care facility that is undergoing an expansion. The company operating this facility, Peoplecare, decided to remove two butternut hybrid trees that the city council had requested be saved during construction. Because there was no bylaw in place before the removal, Peoplecare will not be penalized for the removal.

The butternut hybrid trees were removed because they were not in excellent health and because they would prevent a fire truck from reaching the back of the building. Although these removals have been factored into a replanting proposal for the site, Janet Babcock, commissioner of planning for the city, is unhappy with the removals. “ It is not just a question of replacement, you can’t just replace a tree that’s been growing for 50 years,” she said.

The proposed tree protection bylaw was presented to the Cambridge city council on June 27th. This bylaw would set guidelines for removing trees that developers and residents would have to follow. Currently, the tree bylaw is scheduled to be ready for the council to vote on in November and become active in December. “A tree preservation would be helpful…it puts in place penalties in the event that someone wants to remove mature, healthy trees,” said Babcock.