Street Trees

Posted by Randy - September 27th, 2013

Oak Tree in Sidewalk

Oak tree in Washington D.C., destroying a median

Kile Tree Service has recently had a mention in the editorial section of the Wenatchee World, in Tracy Warner’s thoughtful comments on the Fancher Heights Oaks situation. Oak trees along the road there have been planted in a 4′ strip, and they are quickly outgrowing their space, with damage to curbs and sidewalks. The trees are beautiful and no one wants to lose them, but most people are simply not willing to live with uplifted and broken sidewalks and streets, and other possibly dangerous damage that could be done to underground utilities. It’s a safety issue, a legal liability, and a costly ongoing maintenance burden.

Dead street tree

Street trees are often stressed to death

This street tree problem is a real challenge- we want trees in our world, but we’re often unwilling to give them what they need to thrive as living organisms, especially space to grow. Kudos to everyone who tries to beautify our world by planting and preserving trees, but we have to be realistic about how much space trees need. A 30′ circle would be my bare minimum for a Pin Oak… 50′ would be better.

In our business we see problems all over caused by improper planting: tall trees under power lines, wide trees up against buildings, and messy trees by parking lots and pools. We put trees in little sidewalk holes, or out in the middle of hot parking lots, or in 4′ grass strips, and we wonder why they don’t live very long. A lot of the work we do is in pruning trees away from structures, streets, and wires, or cutting down otherwise healthy trees that have simply outgrown their space.

A lot of these problems are preventable… the old ‘Right Tree in the Right Place’ philosophy is a valuable ethic that can guide you through many tree-related questions and problems.

[Note- Landscape Architect James Urban has a great book out called ‘Up By Roots‘, that discusses this issue at length, and presents the state of the art in designing urban spaces for best tree health, longevity, and safety].


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