Last month the City Council agreed to hire an arborist, a person trained to care for trees, to determine which of the city’s old trees are healthy enough to stand, which trees needed to be trimmed and which trees need to be cut down. The city did not select an arborist, but Piedmont Parks and Recreation Department employee Craig Russell said Danny Bussey of Anniston has committed to do the work.
“We agreed that we needed an expert to come in and help us with some of these old trees,” said Councilman Bill Baker. “I’m not for taking trees down needlessly, but we have to make sure these trees are safe.”
Attempts to reach Bussey on Friday were not successful.
In the past, tree removal talks in Piedmont have been met with resistance from some residents who say the trees help define the character of the town. Some people who support the tree removal initiative agree, but say some of the old trees must come down because they’re unsafe.
“The trees are over 100 years old and we’ve had some fall,” said Russell, who is administering the project. “They've lived through hurricanes, tornadoes, storms drought and some severe weather.”
If the city goes through with the plan as expected, it won’t be the first time Piedmont has conducted a comprehensive review of trees within its limits. A similar review was conducted in 2001, but some of the trees on the removal list were never cut.
One of those trees fell onto an SUV on a city street during a March storm. The tree narrowly missed the occupants, Mark Ingram and his 15-year-old son, but the incident served as a reminder about the danger of unhealthy trees.
Russell said many of the city’s old trees were planted more than a hundred years ago on rights of way, and today it’s apparent that their root systems’ growth is compromised because they appear to knot and gnarl near sidewalks and roadbeds.
Other signs of obvious damage include large limbs that fall at random, holes in trees and carpenter ants crawling on tree bark. The ants, Russell said, are indicative of damage because they eat rotting wood.
To begin the process city officials are canvassing the city to select potentially damaged trees for the arborist to check.
The trees that need to be removed or trimmed will be placed on a list for Mayor Rick Freeman, who will choose which trees to cut, Russell said.
Russell said the there are troubled trees across the city, but added that there is a concentration of damaged trees in the mill village and on Main Street.
He said the arborist’s review will likely begin in August.
Staff writer Laura Gaddy: 256-235-3544. On Twitter @LJohnson_Star.