A frantic text over the weekend asked for response to the rumor that ‘all the trees downtown were being removed’! We would be frantic about that, too, but rest easy, that is not what is happening. Some trees ARE being removed, victims of the harsh urban environment for trees and…Snowmaggeddon. The extended deep freeze in early 2021 wreaked havoc on downtown trees, some of which, according to our forester/arborist, ‘are dead but just don’t know it.”
The trees were becoming a hazard, and some were large enough to do damage to pedestrians or property if they fell. The trees belong to the city and the maintenance is theirs to shoulder, too, but sometimes there just aren’t enough folks to do all the work. So in 2021, the DDA asked District B Councilwoman LeVette Fuller to earmark some money for downtown trees. The budget amendment passed with unanimous support of the Council, and DDA was able to hire for the removal of a number of dead and dying trees, removal of stumps left when other dead trees were cut and the removal of roots left behind in tree wells that would prevent the planting of another tree. It has been a project more complex and challenging than we ever would have believed.
The next phase of the project is replacing trees that will be appropriate to the shade/sun environment where they are planted in enough time for them to get established before warm weather returns.
Since receiving the city funding in late spring of this year, we have been working to create a tree census downtown to determine the actual number of missing, dead and dying trees, to determine which trees need pruning and other maintenance, where there are empty grates that contain roots and stumps, where trees have grown into the grates, where trees cannot be replanted because of new building awnings or other impediments, where to plant the shade tolerant and intolerant trees, and to answer the myriad of questions that seem to come up each day.
We are being assisted in our task by Ricky Kilpatrick, friend to downtown trees, arborist, and former LSU AgCenter timber expert. We like to say that Ricky has forgotten more about trees than we will ever know.
It is Ricky who fills us in on things like sun scald, an issue that affects the bark on Maple trees (but only in colder weather months. It doesn’t kill the trees, but it makes them very ugly). These are things we need to know. If Maple trees are going to look ugly, do we want to add more Maples?
Our downtown canopy is incredibly important, and is as much art as science. You want trees that will thrive, but you also want trees that will look good, not be affected by some new bug or blight, not shed squishy fruit, and eventually provide good shade. It is a tall order.
So, hang with us and know that change is coming. It won’t be overnight, but we will – with great help from the City- be able to make a good dent in tree replacement over the next couple of months!