By Chuck Stinnett
Henderson, KY (March 23, 2009)- “Twenty-inch maple,” the man in the green safety vest and hard hat called out, measuring and identifying one of the many trees in Henderson’s Central Park damaged by the late January ice storm. “Six pruning cuts to fix this tree,” he added. As Dudley Hartel called out that information, Sarah Gracey punched it into a yellow TDS hand-held computer. Meanwhile, a GPS device in Hartel’s backpack transmitted the exact location of each tree.
Combining 21st century technology with years of knowledge and education, the two government foresters worked Friday afternoon to assemble a database that the city of Henderson can use as it moves into the second phase of repairing storm-ravaged trees in municipal parks.
Band of arborists
The work is an outreach of the Urban Forest Strike Team, a group of state and federal arborists assembled in recent years to help cities in southern states to identify which public trees damaged by severe storms can be saved through restorative pruning and which should be removed.
“Hurricanes are one of the best events when we were thinking about this,” Gracey, an urban forestry coordinator with the Kentucky Division of Forestry, said. But in fact, the first event the team responded to was an ice storm in Oklahoma.
Along with foresters from Virginia and North Carolina, the team has also evaluated damage to trees in Kentucky city parks in Mayfield, Paducah and Madisonville. “Madisonville looks to be the worst I’ve seen” in Western Kentucky, Hartel said. “Henderson is not hit nearly as bad,” he said. “As bad as it looks, you were lucky, really.”
Temperatures may have remained above freezing just a few hours longer than in some other areas, reducing the icing on trees just enough to prevent even more widespread damage, he said.
Tree-trimming crews have already worked their way through most city of Henderson facilities, removing felled limbs, hanging branches and some ruined trees. But many of the municipal trees still need attention. “We’ll see what we can recommend to get ready for the next storm,” Hartel said. Selective pruning now can eliminate future problems, he said.
The arborists offered to help Henderson because it “has been a Tree City USA for a number of years. They have a good urban forestry program here,” Gracey said.
Around Western Kentucky, trees such as oaks and red maples seem to have taken the most damage. Sycamores “held up fairly well,” Hartel said. “White pines came out the best, with their limber branches.” Indeed, evergreens such as magnolias and pines “actually did fairly well,” he said.
While the team’s work concentrated on evaluating city-owned trees, Gracey offered homeowners and forest owners some recommendations.
The Division of Forestry Web site, she said, provides information about proper pruning, including preventive pruning of young trees and advice against topping a tree, which will damage its health and ruin its appearance permanently.
In planting trees, “Practice diversity,” she urged. “If you had 20 Bradford pears lining a driveway, you probably lost all of them.”
“Never plant more than 10 percent of any one species,” she advised. Planting a variety of species will reduce the risk of an ice or wind storm, a particular disease or a pest such as the emerald ash borer from wiping out an entire stand of trees.
And take good care of the trees that are planted. When mulching around young trees, use no more than three or four inches of mulch, and keep it well away from the trunk of the tree to prevent rot. “I’d rather see one tree taken care of then see five trees planted and not cared for,” Gracey said
Courier Press- Tree team surveying storm’s damage