In the summer and fall of 2008, a public tree inventory was conducted within the city limits. A tally of trees along the street rights-of-way and in city parks revealed about 6,400 trees and approximately 300 available planting sites. The information collected on each tree was a snapshot in time and included the tree species, diameter, location, condition rating, damage type, existing tree conflicts and recommendations for management. The top five genera or types of trees (listed as a percentage of the total number) are: oaks (34%), pines (13%), crape myrtles (9%), dogwoods (6%) and sweetgum (5%). To specify the list further, the inventory documented 62 different species. The top nine (listed by total number) are: loblolly pine (765), crape myrtle (574), willow oak (550), water oak (540), laurel oak (500), live oak (404), dogwood (402), sweetgum (304), maple (189) and magnolia (146).
The majority of the trees inventoried were rated in ‘good’ condition (4,447), however 1,649 trees were listed in ‘fair’ condition, 185 in ‘poor’ condition and 37 were dead. The Public Works Department immediately set out to remove the dead trees, which have long since been removed.
Unfortunately, the trees in poor condition presented a challenge due to the high number and ability to address each one in a timely manner. Over the past 5 years the City has been systematically working on removing the remaining trees but it takes time. We consider this an important endeavor which will increase public safety and over time, reduce the number of power outages as a result of tree failures during storm events.
Other findings from the tree inventory revealed 1,875 trees needed deadwood pruning and of those, 608 were categorized as high-priority due to the amount or size of wood to be removed. Again we have been working on whittling away at the list one tree at a time as in-house resources become available. Please realize that all of these trees have been aging and declining for decades and it may take a while to get them all pruned.
In addition, the inventory determined that 737 trees were in conflict with electric lines, no surprise there. To address this, we have started planting small-maturing trees under the electric lines as large unhealthy and unsound trees are removed. Over time, this will alleviate pruning, reduce power outages due to rubbing /falling tree limbs and create a more appealing streetscape.
The bottom line is, when trees age and reach their maturity they are more susceptible to environmental stresses (drought conditions, high summer temperatures and extreme low winter temperatures) and human-caused stresses (parking on the root system, cutting roots, paving over the roots, putting soil on top of the roots, over watering and over pruning). After a while, they just can’t take all of the stress and begin to decline in a variety of ways until they reach a point that they are no longer healthy or safe to retain.