URBAN FORESTRY/Village turns over a new leaf with tree maintenance
The village of Groveport, Ohio, is a small rural community just outside Columbus. The town, like other small towns in the vicinity, is growing very fast. Subdivisions, where the average cost of a home is around $250,000, are springing up practically overnight.
Trees have been a problem in those subdivisions. Trees planted by the developers often were not inspected, and the planting was not well-supervised. Consequently, many died shortly after installation. Those that survived were not necessarily the lucky ones. The village had allocated little money for their maintenance, and when they matured with defects, they became hazardous.
Nanisa Osborn, village administrator for Groveport, saw that the situation was grave. “Residents move to our community from the big city to enjoy the rural setting our village provides,” she says. “In the past, residents have raised issues over our trees, but there was no one who had any expertise when it came to them. So the village contracted with a consulting arborist.”
The council has since passed an ordinance assessing developers a fee for tree planting, which the village now handles, instead of allowing them to plant the trees themselves. The ordinance gives the village supervision over the whole tree-planting process from the planning stage to maintenance.
Askren also conducted a detailed tree inventory that gives the village a record of how much money has been spent on every tree. With the tree maintenance money now in the village’s budget, the Trees and Decorations Committee does not have to ask the council for the money to plant or maintain trees in the village’s newer neighborhoods.
Askren notes that many people fall prey to certain myths about trees and their care. Those myths:
– Trees can take care of themselves in an urban environment. Often trees are thought of as sturdy plants that can withstand any but the most brutal storm. In actuality, trees need to be fertilized, pruned and maintained on a regular basis to replace the nutrients lost in the urban environment;
– That big tree in front of my house is probably 200 years old. The average life of an urban tree is seven years. The larger trees found in the tree lawns in historical or older parts of a town are most likely between 30 and 40 years old;
– Anyone can take care of trees. Urban trees need to be maintained by professionals. In fact, personnel unfamiliar with tree-pruning practices can actually cause more harm than good. Improperly supervised employees or incomplete specifications can cause a city or county considerable frustration and waste money.
– Leaving the trees alone will not harm anyone. In fact, left alone, urban trees can land a local government in court. Lawsuits because of personal or property damage can be quite expensive to the taxpayers. Counties or cities that choose to ignore their urban forest may find out that, while they may not be responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of their trees, they can be held liable when their trees cause damage.