City OKs tree plan

RaeLynn Ricarte
managng editor

There are 243 trees along Wynne, Oak and Main streets, and 98 percent of them need pruning and 2 percent need to be removed, an arborist recently told the City Council.
Jim Flott of Community Forestry Consultants shared information with the council Dec. 11 about an inventory done by his firm, which was hired by the city to develop a Street Tree Master Plan.
The city paid $11,000 for his services, funding from a Department of Natural Resources grant with a local match of in-kind services.
“This is just our effort to get a handle on our tree management,” explained Mayor Louis Janke to the audience at the meeting.
Flott said 240 of the trees on the three main streets needed to be pruned, and five were too far gone to be saved. He said 57 of the trees had “sidewalk conflicts,” such as roots that had buckled pavement or had a root system mostly covered by concrete, which was constricting to growth.
“You need open soil around the tree base,” he said. “Putting trees in a 4x4 pit is like asking you to live in your closet — it wouldn’t be very comfortable, would it?”
Flott said trees on the three streets had a combined value of nearly $400,000, so they were an asset the city needed to dedicated money for their care on a regular basis.
A master plan, he said, recognized that urban conditions were tough on natural landscapes and sought to overcome those challenges.
Good care of trees would extend their life by 10 to 15 years, said Flott.
He said healthy street trees boosted the economy by providing shade and an aesthetic setting that drew visitors and provided a pleasant environment that made them want to browse and shop.
In addition, he said trees reduced erosion and pollution, as well as boosting property values, providing habitat, calming traffic speeds, reducing noise and promoting social interaction, among other benefits.
“One tree has a cooling effect equal to 10 air conditioners – that’s a lot of energy saved,” said Flott. “It’s all been researched, it’s not something I’m making up,”
He warned city officials that having only two species of trees, Norway Maple and Honey Locust, was potentially problematic because if there was an insect infestation, most could be lost.
“Species diversity is a critical thing in urban areas,” said Flott, who included a suggested list of possibilities in the plan.
Janke told Flott that some merchants had expressed concerns about the mess created by leaves and dropped fruit that dropped onto sidewalks.
“What can you say about those derogatory things and how we can handle them?” he asked.
“If you want trees, you are going to have leaves, that’s all part of the deal,” said Flott.
He said, as the city changed out trees in the downtown blocks, they could look at species that would be tidier.
Meanwhile, Flott said officials could pass on into to merchants about the economic benefits that having trees brought them.
“Education is key,” he said.
“We’re all getting educated, it’s pretty clear the city hasn’t known what it was doing,” said Janke.
Flott said the situation could not be fixed overnight, that creating a thriving street tree program was best viewed as the old adage: “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”
The council unanimously adopted the plan as a guide for the street tree program. Janke said it carried no financial obligation and that the city had budgeted $10,000 for each of the next two years for pruning and maintenance.
He said within the last two to three years, the city had dedicated $60,000-$70,000 toward tree management, mostly work done at Yep Kanum park, where close to 50 trees were removed.
Janke said the city had applied for another state grant that would allow more work to be done after years of neglect.