Cities should rethink tree ordinances

January 25th, 2012 by Ken

The clean up is underway all across Thurston County. The sound of chain saws fill the air, from the professionals on city streets to the amateur in his back yard.

The recent snow and ice storm has brought down hundreds, if not thousands of trees, limbs of trees, parts of trees, all around our community.

Not since 1996 have we had such damage and even then, I’m not sure we lost as many trees then as we did this time around. It was the combination of snow and ice which made this the worse tree disaster in my memory.

Like many of you, I lost a tree in my backyard which ended up for the most part in my neighbor’s yard. Together we’re going to have to decide what we want to do about getting it cut up and removed.

That’s the problem with trees. They fall down. I’ve always liked trees. I think they’re beautiful.

But they don’t belong in urban areas.

Our cities pride themselves for being Tree City USA and have adopted rules and regulations protecting trees – – how they can be cut – – how many can be cut – – where they must be located and just how many trees a builder has to leave on a piece of property.

But, if this recent storm proved anything, it proved that trees and urban populations don’t belong together. That’s particularly true of our Douglas Firs.

Doug Firs are not meant to be around houses. They grow high, with shallow root systems and long limbs. They need to grow in clumps for mutual support. They are not good trees to have around your house or in your neighborhood.

Most of our cities now line their city streets with “people friendly” trees like Ash and Lynden and Cherry in Tumwater. But the big Maples on Legion Way, the Alders on Eastside Street and the Big Doug Firs all around our community just aren’t made for urban areas.

It’s time for the cities to rethink their tree policies, particularly when it comes to new development. Clump trees, like Doug Firs and Maples on one lot and cut all the rest down. Plant “people friendly” trees near houses.

Lets get realistic about our trees and enjoy the beauty they provide in the right settings.

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