Protect our Urban Forest

By Vicki Pollyea,

November 2010
The old questions of how to protect our urban forest, and to reconcile issues trees face with our need for electricity and development, are once again under discussion.
In Bayshore Gardens in mid-October the large tree trimming trucks reappeared and many roared in disgust. The annual presence of the TECO Tree Trimmers is regularly greeted with concern and then horror. Maintaining our power lines is often in conflict with the trees that grace our neighborhoods; it can be a delicate balance. It seems that trees always lose in this battle. Yes trees should ideally not be planted where they grow into the power lines. But what about century-old trees that predate the presence of power lines? Often the beauty of a canopy of trees arching over a roadway comes into conflict with maintaining our power lines.
THAN, which includes representatives from neighborhoods throughout the city, is looking at forming a Neighborhood Tree Watch Program. Hopefully by organizing in each neighborhood we can have tools to work with the city to insure ongoing protection of our trees. Volunteer Tree Watchers would be the eyes and ears of the neighborhood to protect our trees.
This Neighborhood Tree Watch Program would be patterned after Neighborhood Crime Watch. The Neighborhood Tree Watchers would become familiar with the inventory of trees in the neighborhood, perhaps even taking digital pictures and keeping records of the trees in the neighborhood. Signs would be posted in the neighborhood informing residents of the Tree Watch Program and how to report illegal tree trimming and cutting. The volunteers in the neighborhood would work with the City of Tampa Parks and Recreation Natural Resources Department and the Growth Management and Development in the Construction Services Department. The hope is that we can protect our trees from illegal trimming, and or removal before a tree is damaged or removed.
A permit is required to remove any tree. Permits also are required even to trim or prune a grand tree . All trees in the City of Tampa are protected (except for a few non-native species such as melaleuca, cherry laurels, etc). The Tree Hotline number is 258-8733
Regarding the ongoing issues of trees and power lines, the City of Tampa Neighborhood Offi ce, leaders from THAN, and the City of Tampa’s Arborists are working with TECO in looking at better ways to trim trees. The deep V cut that leaves the trees vulnerable is not the only option. TECO is supposed to notify neighbors before the trimming. Also TECO is supposed to work with the City of Tampa’s Arborist to insure that trees are protected during clearing for power lines. For more information please feel free to contact TECOand the City of Tampa Natural Resources Deportment 274-5164.
As guardians of our trees it is very important when planting a tree that we remember what the mature size of that tree is going to be. Planting the right tree now in the right place will reduce future issues with trees growing into power lines. The Offi ce of the Florida Extension Services provides a guide on which type of trees to plant in different locations. Maintaining, pruning and shaping your trees are all important tools that we need to learn about. A good resource for all sort of information including techniques for preparing trees for hurricanes can be found at the Florida Extension Service http:// solutionsforyourlife.ufl .edu/
Often during construction of a home or larger development, the already established trees are neglected. Too often the roots are permanently damaged so that after a few years pass, the trees become unsalvageable. There are many ways that trees can be protected during construction so that they do not suffer harm. If you see a construction site that appears to not be protecting its trees, please feel free to contact the Construction Services Department at 274-3100.
In the past we have undervalued our large established trees. Developers often chose to destroy the existing trees and to replant the area with smaller trees with no diversity of species. We now recognize the value of the older trees and the value of having a diverse urban forest . We now realize not only that our urban forest helps deal with pollution but also that our property is more valuable for having established trees.
If you are interested in helping develop the Neighborhood Tree Watch Program or volunteering for your neighborhood’s program, please contact your neighborhood Board Member or your THAN representative.
All trees in Tampa are protected assets. Hopefully by working with TECO, developing the Neighborhood Tree Watch Program and all of us becoming more informed guardians of our trees, we can recognize the true worth of our urban forest and together protect the trees for future generations.
In Community,
Vicki Pollyea, Bayshore Gardens
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