Greater Greater Washington

Street tree care: How can it improve?

Washington, DC is nicknamed "City of Trees," but its appropriateness is at risk along with many of DC's trees. We must improve the way we care for our city's trees to make this nickname relevant again, and soon.

A few years ago, the city planted trees in the median of North Capitol Street, from Michigan Avenue to Hawaii Avenue, while the street was undergoing a complete reconstruction. The trees all died within the year, due to a lack of water. Casey Trees recommends that a newly-planted street tree receive twenty-five gallons of water per week for the first three years while establishing a healthy root system. (I am a Casey Trees Citizen Forester.)

Over the last year, the city reconstructed Brentwood Road NE from Rhode Island Avenue south to T Street. That reconstruction included the planting of approximately 64 new trees in the treeboxes lining the street. The photographs above show the condition of the trees on this stretch of road nownamely, they've nearly all died.

On a recent weekend, I counted only four trees, or 6% of the total from this project, that remain alive. Weeds choke the treeboxes that line the street (save two in front of the Lowest Price Gas Station, where the trees are still dead), all of them neglected. That's unacceptable.

A new section of the Metropolitan Branch Trail recently opened between the New York Avenue Metro Station and Franklin Street NE. Trees were planted along the trail at many points, including the pocket park pictured at 4th and S Streets NE. Many of the trees are already dead due to the extremely dry spell we had in June and early July.

All of that is unfortunate, and easily could have been prevented, had the property owners and neighbors along the Met Branch Trail and Brentwood Road taken the time to water the nearby trees, or if the city had planned to water the trees in the North Capitol Street median, as the road there is practically a freeway where watering would be difficult. But there is hope ahead!

The city is actively working on a streetscape plan for the entire length of Sherman Avenue NW, between New Hampshire and Florida Avenues. One of the elements of this reconstruction will be a planted median. After seeing what happened on roads like North Capitol Street, it's reasonable to see why residents might be skeptical that trees could survive without a dedicated source of water to keep them alive.

Thankfully, Sherman Avenue resident Craig Sallinger was able to get a guarantee from a DDOT employee that an irrigation system will be included in the construction of the road, so it will be easy to get water to those trees while they're trying to establish roots. Hopefully this will be a consideration DDOT makes in all of their future streetscape programs.

In the August 4th edition of the Dupont Current, there is a story about the DC "Tree Fund." The fund is partially filled by fees levied as part of the Urban Forest Preservation Act of 2002, and is legally required to be kept separate from the city's general fund. (I wish I could link directly to the story, but the Current has a strong dislike of Internet publishing.)

The Current says that the 2011 budget, proposed by the Mayor and approved by the Council, removes money from the fund and places it in the city's general fund. In the article, Councilmember Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3) states she wasn't aware that the money was being diverted from the Tree Fund into the general fund when she voted for the budget.

The government agency tasked with planting and maintaining street trees in DC is the Urban Forestry Administration (UFA), which is part of the District Department of Transportation (DDOT). I recently had the opportunity to speak with John P. Thomas, the Urban Forestry Administration's Chief Forester, about some details of the city's street tree planting and maintenance program.

DDOT's yearly street tree budget is $7.5 million. As John Kelly noted on Sunday, the city is not responsible for watering trees once they are planted (contractors plant most of the street trees in the city). Mr. Thomas said that watering will be a line item in the planting contract this coming year. It will most likely mean that the city will not be able to plant as many trees as they have in years past, but I see that as a net positive for the DC.

Spending money on in-ground watering systems and paying more individuals (be they UFA contractors or students employed during the summer) will inevitably take money away from actual tree planting. I think that's a good thing.

I'm not saying I want fewer trees. I want more! But I want them to be mature and healthy, not first-year seedlings, struggling to stay alive.

DDOT's current planting process doesn't work, through no fault of their own. Mr. Thomas noted that 95% of what they plant comes from resident requests for trees in front of their house. A program called "Canopy Keepers" exists to encourage residents to water the young trees on their street. Some of my friends here in Trinidad are participating in this program. Walking around the city, though, you can easily see that many residents are not holding up their end of the bargain. The UFA staff does an admirable job with limited resources, but I believe it would be better to help young trees mature instead of wasting those resources replacing trees year after year.

You can only count on the kindness of strangers to a certain point. Eventually, money talks, and it can also water trees.

Cross-posted at The District Curmudgeon.

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Geoff Hatchard lived in DC's Trinidad neighborhood. The opinions and views expressed in Geoff's writing on this blog are his, and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer. 

Comments

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I think this is a very important element related to reshaping the District into a more sustainable city. The trees we lost in the 1970's and 1980's without replacement have seriously undercut the overall quality of life in DC.

Certainly to the extent that the city and Casey Trees can recruit and train "canopy keepers" is fantastic. Another suggestion would be to include guarantee of newly planted trees in DDOT contracts, so the contractor (or sub-contractor) is responsible for the life of the tree over the first three years, to cover disease, watering and other potential barriers. This could be leveraged by an escrow account for that particular contract - each year a tree survives and is flourishing, as deemed by the UFA, monies are released from the contract, with enough remaining such that there is a strong incentive to fulfill the obligation through the recommended three-year period. If a tree dies, the contractor is responsible for replacement and maintenance through three years, starting the clock on those individual species.

by Andrew on Aug 10, 2010 9:05 am • linkreport

I like Andrew's suggestion. I was just going to note the condition of the number of trees recently planted along 14th street in Columbia Heights. I fear that they are (and will be) underwatered, as there are mainly businesses and a retirement community along that strip which may not commit to watering (I live too far away to be able to transport water). I wonder if there is something that could be done in absence of a DDOT contract provision.

by Tmichaels on Aug 10, 2010 9:21 am • linkreport

I've had a big interest in tree planting for a long time and have been involved in my community for several years and you point out something which becomes quite obvious after a while - everyone loves to plant trees but no one wants to water them.

I wholeheartedly agree that we (be it DC, Arlington, Alexandria, Montco, etc.) need to plant fewer trees and better care for the ones we actually do plant.

A few years back I worked with the city (Alexandria) to get 30 trees planted on my block. Because Alexandria, like DC, does not normally budget for post-planting care, I took responsibility to water them and our survival rate was close to 100%. We lost two initially but they were essentially dead when planted (and quickly replanted with healthy ones) and lost a third one to the freak storm last week. They're all well established now and I'm considering taking on the next block over. :-)

by EZ on Aug 10, 2010 9:41 am • linkreport

I think there are also opportunities with street reconstructions to adjust the storm water infrastructure to capture runoff from the streets and direct it to tree boxes. Some of the new curbs and gutters currently being installed down by the Navy Yard do this - it's a double bonus of reducing runoff and also directing that runoff to more productive purposes - namely, keeping trees and other vegetation watered.

by Alex B. on Aug 10, 2010 9:43 am • linkreport

This has been a big bugaboo of mine for a long time. Why plant a bunch of trees if you're not going to water them? Better to plant fewer trees but make sure they survive. Could not property owners also be enlisted to water the trees right in front of them? It seems like a no-brainer. It would not take much for the city to recognize property owners who take care of trees.

by Steve on Aug 10, 2010 9:59 am • linkreport

+1 to (the other) Andrew!

by andrew on Aug 10, 2010 10:00 am • linkreport

@Alex B.:

I was wondering about this before I read the comments, and I'm glad to hear that this type of thing has been done. I'm assuming that you are talking about a curbside grate that drains into a treebox, but not into the storm drains. Do you have a link to a picture of this? Or a link to a manufacturer? Or maybe just a location, so I can check it out at the next Nats game I go to? Thanks either way!

by kinverson on Aug 10, 2010 10:11 am • linkreport

What's the etiquette for adopting trees that aren't in front of your own house? We have a mature tree in our tree box, but there are a number of new plantings up and down the street. It's a bit presumptuous to "help out" when noticing that neighbors' trees aren't getting the water they need, but so is raising the subject with a neighbor who doesn't seem to have the time or desire to care for a tree. (Maybe it takes a village.) Anyone have any tips?

by John Mitchell on Aug 10, 2010 10:13 am • linkreport

@Andrew - That's a good idea, but contractors are unlikely to go for it at any reasonable expense to DC. Landscaper standard is usually a one-year warranty, and even then that's with homeowner watering. Yes, it could be modified to require contractor watering--use those watering bags and have them go back at least a couple of times. The problem at least on my street was that they planted a bunch of trees in late May, right when it started getting hot and dry. Had they planted in March, which is a better tree-planting season, between the rain we got and the cooler temperatures, they would have had a much better chance of getting well established.

by ah on Aug 10, 2010 10:23 am • linkreport

@ John Mitchell--Why not just water them? It's not their tree. If you're feeling guilty tell them you were planning to give them some water when you have your hose out and let them object.

by ah on Aug 10, 2010 10:24 am • linkreport

@kinverson

What I've seen is a curbside grate that drains into a treebox. It was already planted when I saw it, so I haven't had a chance to see the underlying infrastructure. The tree box itself was slightly below the grade of the sidewalk, more even with the grade of the street and gutter - unlike the tree boxes in Geoff's pictures above, where the mulch is well above the sidewalk. They're also still constructing many of the streets in the area.

If you wanted to check it out, the specific tree boxes I've seen are towards the end of 3rd St SE near the new Yards Park:

http://maps.google.com/maps?f=d&source=s_d&saddr=Washington,+DC&daddr=38.873914,-77.002155&hl=en&geocode=CVLJBGSAT-ihFQh-UQIdsoRo-ylb5PZa3sa3iTEqXYjUIkVSwg%3B&gl=us&mra=mift&mrsp=1&sz=17&sll=38.873954,-77.002155&sspn=0.005262,0.012735&ie=UTF8&ll=38.873954,-77.000116&spn=0.005262,0.008647&t=h&z=17

by Alex B. on Aug 10, 2010 10:28 am • linkreport

Steve,

I purposely used the tree planting on my block as a social experiment to see how I could gently nudge my neighbors into caring for the trees in front of their house.

Using commitment theory, prior to planting I went door-to-door with a form they read/signed which was a request from them to the city to plant a tree in front of their house. It also stated that they would water the tree as needed.

Once the trees were planted, I noticed that only about 25% of them were being watered by the homeowners. I borrowed a large (20 gallon) watering can on wheels from a friend and began weekly (or more) waterings of the trees. It helped that the city had provided gator bags. It would have been much more difficult without them.

Over time more of the neighbors began to water the trees and it got up to close to 50%. However, their watering was inconsistent and often very inadequate. Their perception of how much water a newly planted tree needs is much lower than what it really needs and their estimation of how much water a tree gets from a light rain is too high.

I did realize I was affecting change when one neighbor laughingly told me that his wife ordered him out to water the tree in front of their house because "the tree guy is out watering them."

In the end, many of my neighbors are taking better care of the trees. If we were to plant new ones the community help I would receive would be greater than the first time around but, hopefully, I won't live to see my block needed so many trees being planted at one time again.

Bottom line is that education is a HUGE need to gain community participation in tree plantings.

~EZ

PS: I had one neighbor almost berate me when I went door-to-door with the forms. She emphatically told me she not only did not want a tree in front of her house, she didn't want ANY on the entire block. Reason? Birds sit in the trees and shit on her car. Some people are morons. There is no tree in front of her house but I've received many, many compliments and kudos on how much better our block looks now with the 30 trees.

by EZ on Aug 10, 2010 10:50 am • linkreport

@ah

You raise some good points. I think this is the sort of trade-off between planting more trees and getting the proper care for them in the critical early years.

I agree that in a perfect world, residents and business owners would adopt trees in their vicinity. Common custom in New York and many European cities is the property owners hosing/cleaning the sidewalks and curbs in front of their property. Not quite as ingrained here.

Perhaps the bigger issue is where trees are planted in medians and other locations not readily accessible by adjacent property owners.

Either way, it is going to take creative thinking and community spirit to address these issues.

by Andrew on Aug 10, 2010 11:02 am • linkreport

Any thoughts on "problem" trees. A huge (50' with a trunk 5' in diameter) ailanthus tree was just cut down on our block. Speaking with the property owner, it was dropping all sorts of nasty stuff 10 months out of the year. Large limbs kept falling off it in the wind. When the got it down to a stump, it turned out it was rotten to the core, and rats had been living in it.

In many parts of the city, it's been so long since any kind of tree care has been done, that we're kind of making up for lost time. The sorts of maintenance that is taken for granted in the suburbs just wasn't feasible for the longest time. If folks got their hands on $700, they sure as hell weren't going to use it to prune back (or cut down) a diseased or "weed" tree.

by oboe on Aug 10, 2010 11:18 am • linkreport

It would be interesting if DDOT installed a rain barrel at the park along the Met Branch Trail that gathered rain water off one of the adjacent buildings. Then volunteers could agree to water the trees with the rainwater there. Much cheaper than installing an irrigation system.

by David C on Aug 10, 2010 11:20 am • linkreport

From my experience, most of these dead trees receive their death sentence the very day they are planted, because they are planted in such hostile conditions. When developers come in to build a road or housing or whatever, they run their heavy equipment over the ground, compacting the hell out of it. The trees are an afterthought: auger a hole, dump the whole tree ball in (with metal cage and burlap bag intact), cover it, mulch it, and move on to the next one. The tree’s main root has to fight through the burlap, get lucky enough to squeeze though the metal cage, and then fight the super-compacted “soil” (which is really just rocky, clay-y back-fill with some construction debris). Water is the least of the trees’ problems (though the small tree wells in the picture didn’t help anything). Whenever you see a young tree that looks like Friar Tuck, with a dead top but the sides still have leaves, then you know the main root never made it.
Planting trees right takes time, unfortunately. To do it right, you need a big hole; good dirt (even if you have to bring some in); the wire cage and burlap sack needs to be removed entirely; stake the tree; mulch it; then add a water bag. If you do this, you actually give the tree a good chance to survive. Like most jurisdictions, mine require a tree bond for trees planted in the right of way. We wonÂ’t release the bond until a year after a project is accepted (i.e. fully complete). That ensures that all dead trees get replaced. It also helps if you are upfront with your contractors and tell them how you expect your trees to be planted.

by bryon on Aug 10, 2010 11:26 am • linkreport

@Alex B.

Thanks, I'll check it out.

by kinverson on Aug 10, 2010 11:30 am • linkreport

+1 bryon.

We need to create an incentive to make contractors do it right. Or we need to force them to hire UFA to do it.

by David C on Aug 10, 2010 11:31 am • linkreport

You may find this previous post on GGW interesting. It describes a portfolio standard system designed to engage personal citizens and businesses with economic incentives to plant and care for trees and increase the urban tree canopy.

Also, might there be a way to get community involvement through some sort of "fun?" http://www.thefuntheory.com/virals

by Steve O on Aug 10, 2010 11:36 am • linkreport

First, I just wanted to say although I usually very critical, it is because of posts like this that I read this site -- I am the idiot who walks down the street and wants to know why the "tree box" is there and how it is taken care of.

Second, the design changes (rain barrels and new drainage) sounds great, but given our summers are hot and usually w/o much rain not sure they would work. That is when the young trees are dying.

Third, could you use an incentive system for residential streets that is easier than the portfolio. I.e. if you keep the try alive for the first three years you get a $100 tax credit or something like that?

by charlie on Aug 10, 2010 12:03 pm • linkreport

This is a big problem on 11th St. NW near the Convention Center, too. DC spent over a year reconstructing and probably half of the trees that were planted in April are now dead.

by ben on Aug 10, 2010 12:06 pm • linkreport

IÂ’m glad to see this author wants to take care of our EXISTING trees! Hurray!

(But I’m sorry, this is a bland throwaway comment “A program called "Canopy Keepers" exists to encourage residents to water the young trees on their street.” meaning nothing without further detail. Your next sentence about the kindness of strangers is much better!)

Trees werenÂ’t the only thing that was lost as one commentator noted: also people and knowledge and the respect for slow, detailed learning and thoughtful approaches to horticulture and trees. As I have said again and again and again it is going to take more than calling yourself or something Smart this or that, waving a blackberry and expecting - voila - to have what you want. And it takes more than Casey trees. Much more. I cited an example of a small, close knit group of people in Georgetown who had forged the only successful relationship with Casey trees I have heard about. And they have proven that what it takes is persistence and rationality. You canÂ’t ever assume things will be taken care of, because they wonÂ’t. Pure and simple, they wonÂ’t.

Go to our parks – they are abysmal! Why? Because the city does not maintain them. Sure there are knowledgeable people in DPR, but they are not ON THE GROUND. They are in offices overseeing multi thousand and million dollar projects paid to contractors of varying morality and oftentimes low competence. There is no day to day monitoring of ANYthing at all to speak of in our parks. There used to be.

UFA is often staffed by people who allow themselves to be bullied, and partly that is because they lack confidence in their own experience and knowledge and so are susceptible to that kind of behavior. I have yet to see robust knowledgeable leadership demonstrated at UFA.

DPR is a fiasco in terms of leadership. And in terms of the city council, I never expect much more than ad hoc action.

I am speaking here mostly of public property. In terms of private property, I would say that it is the responsibility of the property owners to get up to speed, but I grudgingly suppose that there should be programs to help them (though that might be taking away from public properties) since those peoples' trees contribute to the overall tree canopy.

by Jazzy on Aug 10, 2010 12:12 pm • linkreport

This article raises the biggest challenge urban forestry faces: ongoing maintenance for newly planted and established trees. In theory this shouldn't be hard to do, given that Casey tree has every tree in the city mapped.

I run a small natural resource consulting company and and very interested in getting a maintenance contract for the urban canopy.

It is unclear if theses types of contracts are even available through the city?

Even if they are, it seems that there is inadequate funding available, given that the tree fund money gets diverted into the general fund.

Tree maintenance contracts would provide a huge opportunity for local Green jobs while producing tangible results through improved air and water quality, increased shading, (which helps lower cooling costs and infrastructure maintenance costs- sidewalks, roads etc.) and will ultimately lead to healthier communities and improved property values.

by James R. Remuzzi on Aug 10, 2010 12:22 pm • linkreport

I"d like to point out that in a few years, the trees on the top right image will start interfering with the overground electrical wiring. And they will be cut down by the power company, supported by residents who don't want to loose power every storm.

I am staggered by the fact that DDOT is foolish enough to plant trees without any plan for maintenance post-planting. But then again, maintenance is not a strong point of government. Just look at our roads, bridges and transit, power and sewer systems.

by Jasper on Aug 10, 2010 12:25 pm • linkreport

Oh sorry, I forgot:

Overground wiring in DC? AAAAAHhhhhh! Can...not...see...the...beautiful...viewshed!!!!

by Jasper on Aug 10, 2010 12:27 pm • linkreport

DC is a great city and seeing more trees downtown would certainly be a strong attraction to many newcomers. It's important that these trees aren't planted for the sake of planting them - providing care for them is what will ultimately help preserve our city's nickname of the "City of Trees"

by wydlerbrothers on Aug 10, 2010 12:28 pm • linkreport

@ Jasper; exactly.

This has been puzzling me for a while. The "let's do this big renewal project for one year" and then let it sit for 15 years and do nothing while it falls apart.

Bridge painting is an example. Or any sort of road work.

Is it a budgeting problem? LAzy public sector organizations that can mobilize to fix an entire road but can't send one guy to repair a broken curb? lack of data?

If I tried to keep my house or car like that it would be destroyed.

by charlie on Aug 10, 2010 1:34 pm • linkreport

"I fear that they are (and will be) underwatered, as there are mainly businesses and a retirement community along that strip which may not commit to watering..."

When I walk to work each morning I pass countless businesses with some guy watering the sidewalk to clean it. Shouldn't be a huge imposition to ask businesses to water trees.

by JB on Aug 10, 2010 1:45 pm • linkreport

The basic problem here - quick and highly visible investment (planting trees) with little to no thought/investment for the long term (watering the trees until they're established) is quite common and not just with trees. I've seen this in areas as diverse as IT departments and state highway departments. If budgets don't grow along with the increase in O&M (operations & maintenance), things eventually need to be cut.

This is also known as the "long tail" in costs - where the initial investment gains all the attention but the area under the curve (required funding) is greater for O&M than for the initial investment.

Same thing for buying a car - people focus on the up-front cost but the cost of insurance, fuel and repairs will, over the useful life of the car, be much greater than the initial cost of the car.

DC is not alone in their focus on planting over caring for/maintaining trees; it seems to be quite common. As I understand, Casey is working hard to change this by developing strategies to care for existing or newly planted trees.

by EZ on Aug 10, 2010 1:47 pm • linkreport

This is my personal favorite GGW post & thread for 2010. Thanks everyone.

@ah - re your disagreement with Andrew's comment about DC's requiring landscape contractors to maintain a planted tree for a year. If the DC government chose to make that part of the terms of a reasonable size contract for someone like James R. Ramuzzi, that might be the "industry standard" gets improved. It sounds like, in the case of planting trees in public space, the industry standard isn't working. Maybe DC can, in a tiny little way, make one little step toward improving the industry standard by requiring a one-year planting survival guarantee. By the way, I realize you said "at a reasonable cost" - but why not find out what that cost actually is before discarding the idea.

@James - is the notion of a one-year guarantee totally unknown in landscaping world? Would you care to elaborate on a "typical" kind of guarantee? Does it double the cost of the tree?

by pinkshirt on Aug 10, 2010 3:09 pm • linkreport


It was probably over a year ago, but I emailed DC and offered to help take care of steet trees around where I work. (Don't live in DC though). I never heard back. This is the site. Maybe it would work for someone else.

http://dc.gov/DC/DDOT/Services/Tree+Services/Become+a+Canopy+Keeper+-+Adopt+a+Tree

by Ren on Aug 10, 2010 4:49 pm • linkreport

@ pink shirt. I don't think guarantees are the answer here. Most planting contractors aren't set up for long term maintenance agreements and as a result the guarantee options are prohibitively expensive, which is why the city doesn't do them. A better option would be for UFA to offer maintenance contracts by wards and or districts for all of the services (watering, pruning, tree box maintenance, etc) and included performance measures based on annual survival rates. The contract could also require the contractor to have mobile GIS capabilities, which would allow them to document watering dates, maintenance tasks performed, etc and upload them to the UFAs tree database. That would then just require UFA foresters (wo are doing good work but are overwhelmed) to dispatch the contractors and audit the uploaded actions.

by James R. Remuzzi on Aug 11, 2010 12:31 pm • linkreport

Or, DPR or DDOT or UFA could actually - horrors! - staff their agencies so that these services are provided in house. Revolutionary I know, but this used to happen and as far as I know, our tree canopy was much better than it is now.

by Jazzy on Aug 11, 2010 2:13 pm • linkreport

Jazzy. Math:
8000 new trees per year.
Each tree needs to be watered for three years.
If takes about 15 minutes to water a tree (counting going to it and watering). Then that's 6000 man hours of watering. That means you'd need 150 employees working full time to water each tree just once a week. And each tree probably needs watering more than once a week in hot weather. And then what do you do with those employees when they aren't watering trees? And that adds a lot of driving etc.. to the area.

So, this is a case where it's appropriate to call on citizens to show some actual citizenship. After all, All you need is 5% of DC citizens committing about 10 minutes a day for about 100 days a year.

by David C on Aug 12, 2010 11:52 am • linkreport

@David -- I think that's a bit of an overestimate, although the point still stands.

If DC had a water tank truck and installed tree gators (or whatever those watering bags are called) on all new trees, the truck should be able to fill each back in about 3 minutes, and should be able to do a lot in a short period where they've planted numerous trees (e.g., new medians).

by ah on Aug 12, 2010 12:12 pm • linkreport

What it really comes down to is a sense of "ownership." City employees who take pride in a particular park and feel "ownership" of it will take care of it. Likewise with citizens. When citizens feel "ownership" of a piece of the city, then they will more likely take pride in caring for it.

I think engaging the schools would be a great way to extend this sense of ownership. If a classroom were engaged to take care of a particular group of trees, then you know they would be out there all the time. Additionally, students would be very open to learning about proper care, since they probably don't have any preconceived notions and would want to learn in order to be successful.

Engage the students and then put up a little sign, "The trees in this median have been adopted by ABC school," and I'll bet you those trees would do great.

by Steve Offutt on Aug 12, 2010 1:19 pm • linkreport

David C, but that's been the philosophy for a while and it's not working. DC is an extremely transient city with a low level of true civic engagement. Calling on citizens to water trees in this case is indicative of a last desperate grasp. Not to mention the usual lack of vision, organization and commitment.

by Jazzy on Aug 12, 2010 8:20 pm • linkreport

AH has a better idea. Afterall, for those of us who've ever watered trees, we know it takes longer than 10 minutes a day. I'm not complaining, I just wanted to be accurate. Finding and getting water is of course the most time consuming aspect of it.

by Jazzy on Aug 13, 2010 7:29 am • linkreport

This story has generated alot of passion and brought up some great points. There is a alot of knowledge regarding trees and city services amoung this group. That said can anyone point out an urban environment that deosnt have the issues that DC has or that have been brought up here? It would be interesting to work along side UFA for a week to see what obsticles really exist.

by Jonas on Aug 16, 2010 4:18 pm • linkreport

Great article. Trees need to be kept up to stay alive and healthy, but who's gonna do it?

by Joe Lombari on Aug 18, 2010 12:16 pm • linkreport

Great article. Planting more trees in the downtown metro area will certainly add some life to the locale and attract more tourists. Thanks for posting this.

by Columbia County Arborist on Aug 19, 2010 9:32 am • linkreport

d.ish just put up an article kicking off by referencing this one... figured I'd post it here for those interested. Cheers!

http://ddotdish.com/2010/08/19/d-trees/

by Bossi on Aug 19, 2010 10:26 pm • linkreport

Thanks for this post! As a resident who asked for a tree to be planted in an empty treebox on my block of Florida Ave. NW in Bloomingdale, only to watch it die as successive downpours fed fast-growing weeds that sapped the sapling's water supply, I fully agree that DDOT should budget for some basic level of maintenance of the trees they've planted.

While relying on neighbors to care for the trees is a nice idea, it's just not practical given how busy most people's lives are. Neighbors who are willing to commit to regular watering and weed removal should be able to sign an agreement to do so, but otherwise, it should be a DDOT responsibility, at least for the first year of a tree's life.

by Malcolm Kenton on Aug 20, 2010 11:55 am • linkreport

Malcolm, I agree with what you say. but if I have to plant 4000 trees and I have 8000 reports of empty tree boxes, I have to decide where to plant them. If 3000 of those boxes are next to homeowners who commit to water and care for the trees, guess which ones move to the front of the list. People are busy, but it really doesn't make much time. About as much time as watching a tree die.

by David C on Aug 20, 2010 12:27 pm • linkreport

So what about a small incentive for the homeowner?
Have them sign a commitment. If the tree is still alive and well after, say, 24 months, they get $150. That's a small amount compared to replacing the tree and certainly less than the maintenance would cost if they did it themselves.

An enterprising neighbor could take on a bunch of trees and make a few thousand dollars (or they could limit the number any one person can maintain, I suppose).

by Steve O on Aug 20, 2010 2:52 pm • linkreport

Steve O, that's a fantastic idea. One that an economist would love. I suspect there is some reason why it's illegal (union rules, minimum wage issues etc..), just as all good ideas are.

by David C on Aug 20, 2010 2:59 pm • linkreport

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Save my name and email address on this computer so I don't have to enter it next time, and so I don't have to answer the anti-spam map challenge question in the future.

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