Ledger Inquirer

Who knew the city had a Tree Board?

This tree in Hilton Heights has seen better days, but the city will determine if its days are numbered.
This tree in Hilton Heights has seen better days, but the city will determine if its days are numbered. mowen@ledger-enquirer.com

We’re back in the trees again this week.

A gentleman we’ll call Doc lives in the Hilton Heights area and has a problem tree that has been severely trimmed by Georgia Power to keep it clear of the power lines. Doc said he isn’t blaming the power company. They’re just doing what they have to do to keep the lights on. But he’s concerned that the old oak has been trimmed to the point that it’s dying and may become dangerous, if it already isn’t.

We talked last week with Robert Watkins of Georgia Power, but we found out that it’s not the power company that determines whether a tree on the right of way is to come down or not. That call is made by the city’s arborists, who work for the Urban Forestry division of the Public Works Department.

That’s Pat Biegler’s department, so I called her.

“If someone is concerned about a tree (on the right of way) they should call 311 and report it,” Biegler said. “We will send an arborist out to see if it needs to come down. If it needs to be cut down, we put it on the list.

“If a tree gets to the point that it jeopardizes people, we will take it down.”

There is a complicated formula with which arborists evaluate a tree’s condition. It’s based on the size, age, species, damage, etc., she said. Also, trees are assigned a monetary value, for some reason. For example, a large oak in good condition can have a value of $35,000-$40,000, Biegler said.

Trees are valuable assets, of course. We may not realize it in this part of the country, where they are so plentiful. But they serve a valuable purpose by sopping up carbon dioxide and other pollutants.

“Trees have a lot to do with local air quality,” Biegler said.

And simply replacing a mature hardwood with a new sapling doesn’t do much to help, at least not at first. Biegler said her arborists tell her it takes about 100 new trees to make up for losing one mature tree.

With that in mind, Biegler said the city is planning a study of the tree population to see how much of the city’s tree cover has been lost over the years. She fears it has been a considerable amount.

So the city is reluctant to take down one of its trees that doesn’t need to come down.

So if you call the city and they say a tree that you think needs to come down doesn’t qualify for cutting, you do have an option. That option is not to cut the thing down yourself. If the tree is on the city right of way, it belongs to the city.

Your option is to appeal the city arborist’s decision to the city’s Tree Board. Yes, the city has a Tree Board.

“They’re experts on trees, too, and they too don’t want to cut down trees either, unless they need to come down,” Biegler said “But they can determine whether we’re doing a good job of evaluating the trees.”

So if you have a tree on the right of way and you think it needs to come down, call 311 or 706-653-4000 and report it.

That’s what Doc’s going to do, so stay tuned.

Seen something that needs attention? Contact me at 706-571-8570 or mowen@ledger-enquirer.com.