‘Our goal is to protect trees’
City arborists supervise trimming and respond to citizen complaints about trees
by Jennifer Shrader Staff writer
Crews cut or trim trees around LaGrange on a regular basis and two men make sure there’s a plan behind it all.
Jay Bartlett and Joey Nixon have been certified arborists for the city of LaGrange for almost three years.
“There’s no formal education required, but you do have to have a number of years of experience in the field,” Bartlett said.
That experience can come from forestry, landscaping or utilities – Bartlett comes from the utility side and Nixon is the landscaper.
“It’s a lot of science and math and just knowing the biology of trees,” Bartlett said.
Crews recently have been seen around southwest LaGrange, near the Troup County Health Department on Lincoln Street and in other areas. Bartlett said a tree near the health department that was cut down had been hit by lightening during a storm. The tree was too damaged to keep.
Their arborist training, however, teaches them to look for less obvious signs that a tree might be sick. The tree may have actual leakage of its sap or be dead at the top. If the city gets a complaint about a tree from a resident, it shouldn’t come down just because of the complaint, they also look at other factors – its proximity to power lines, houses and people.
“We don’t miss too much,” Nixon said.
The city normally is only concerned with trees in the rights of way, unless they get a specific complaint. Then the complaint goes through code enforcement before the arborists are consulted.
Crews will remove trees in what Nixon calls the “ribbon,” the grass between the sidewalk and the street, that are interfering with power lines and disrupting sidewalks.
“We won’t replant anything in that ribbon,” he said.
Residents are encouraged to plant trees in their yards, away from sidewalks and power lines.
“Our goal is actually to protect trees, but people need their power,” Bartlett said. “If a tree has a problem, we can’t leave it.”
Aborists have to get re-certified through the state every three years and take about 30 hours of continuing education in between certifications. While it may be unusual for a small city like LaGrange to have an arborist – much less two – Bartlett said he wanted to get the certification so the city could have a plan for the work it does with trees.
“There’s always road bumps when you start cutting down or trimming trees,” he said. “I wanted the city to have some backbone.”
The city will have more backbone when its tree ordinance – overseen by a tree board – is updated. City Planner Leigh Threadgill said that work is in the very beginning stages. The current ordinance does allow for saving existing trees in development of properties.
“If you want a good example of someone who followed the ordinance about trees and landscaping on new development, look at Aldi,” Nixon said.
New ordinances could further spell out how many new trees need to be planted to replace what’s cut down, Bartlett said. Right now the rule is 10 trees per acre need to be preserved or planted on new multi-family, commercial, institutional or industrial lots that are expanded or redeveloped.
Clear-cutting a lot and not replanting anything is a thing of the past.
“Our intent is all developments need to meet a certain standard of landscaping,” she said.
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