Tree whacking

Friday, April 8, 2011

It shall be the responsibility of the Tree Board to study, investigate, counsel and develop and/or update annually, and administer a written plan for the care, preservation, pruning, planting, replanting, removal or disposition of public trees in parks, along streets and in other public areas. ... The purpose... is to improve the aesthetic appeal of the city and to maintain a healthy, useful population of public trees that, through proper cultivation, maintenance, pruning and removal will not infringe upon the public safety or present a hazard to the citizens of the city or to visitors in the city.

This description of the Tree Advisory Board is from the city of Cape Girardeau's official website. From this description, city residents could hope that the city has a genuine interest in not just the healthy cultivation of trees, but also a sense of the importance of the aesthetic appeal of trees in our fair city.

Keep this in mind while considering the ambitious program of our electricity provider, Ameren, to protect its overhead lines from potential storm damage that might be caused by limbs covered in ice.

We all remember the ice storms that have devastated Southeast Missouri in recent years. We remember the days and sometimes weeks it took to restore power to stricken homes and businesses. I think it's safe to say we all applaud Ameren for taking preemptive steps to alleviate future power outages caused by trees growing over and around utility lines.

That being said, there seems to be a disconnect between the aims of the electric company and the city's Tree Advisory Board.

The aggressive tree-trimming program currently underway shows little evidence of any consideration at all for aesthetics. Crews are hacking willy-nilly at trees that threaten power lines. The bizarre shapes of whacked-off limbs left in the wake of these "trimming" operations are enough to make you sick.

If there has been any communication between the city and Ameren about this, it isn't evident in the results we're seeing as we drive along city streets.

Some nearby property owners may think the butchered trees are better than no trees at all. But for now, the trees that have been trimmed look awful.

Can't anything be done to come up with a better tree-trimming approach?

I think so.

For one thing, city residents need to be better educated about growing -- or not growing -- trees in or near utility rights of way. And they should consider removing trees that pose problems instead of allowing them to be lopped and topped.

The worst part of the hacking-the-trees approach is that it is a short-term solution. If the trees don't die from such treatment -- and trees are mighty hardy -- then the limbs are simply going to grow back and create problems in the future.

Why not take a coordinated approach that eliminates trees that interfere with power lines and promotes sensible planting of trees in areas that won't threaten power lines several years down the road?

What about it, Ameren? Tree Advisory Board?

Joe Sullivan is the retired editor of the Southeast Missourian.

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