The city has thousands of decaying ash trees that need to be removed not only for aesthetic reasons but also for public safety. The Parks and Recreation Department’s plan to share with residents the costs of removing dead ash trees along the streets is a workable solution to a challenging and expensive dilemma.
The Citizen-Match Ash Tree Removal Program announced Wednesday will help get the trees down more quickly without breaking the parks department’s limited budget.
We have 5,000 trees left to cut down and, logistically, it just takes some time to get to all of them, said Chad Tinkel, city arborist. Some people are not willing to wait.
Without the match program it would take the city years to remove the dead ash trees. Meanwhile, residents are left to worry about the damage that could happen if the tree falls during the next thunderstorm or heavy wind. The program allows residents with a dead or dying ash tree in the park strip in front of their property to hire a qualified contractor to remove the tree and receive partial compensation from the city.
The city plans to spend about $1.1 million to remove 2,000 trees this year, and there simply isn’t enough money in the budget to remove all the trees. It could be 2015 before all the dead ash trees are removed.
The only option before was to pay the entire bill for a contractor to remove the tree or wait for overburdened city crews to get to them. The first option is expensive, and the second option could mean a long wait.
The removal program pays for about 40 percent of the costs. Removal costs are normally based on the size of the tree. Residents would be reimbursed $30.42 for trees 6 inches or less in diameter at chest height, up to $444 for trees more than 37 inches in diameter. Applicants have to get approval before having the work done to receive reimbursement.
Neighborhood associations have an opportunity to save even more money by getting a volume discount from an approved tree contractor.
Tinkel said it’s important to note the program is only for ash trees and it’s only for public trees – those trees in the right-of-way between the sidewalks and streets – not privately owned trees.
I will not authorize the removal of a healthy tree or one you just don’t like. That’s not what this program is about, he said.
Parks officials also announced Wednesday a change to an existing program that will make it more affordable for residents to replace street trees. The city is reducing the cost of its street tree program to $50. In previous years applicants paid $75. The city pays the remaining cost of the trees, which will be planted in the fall.
We are trying to encourage people to plant more trees because we are losing so many to the emerald ash borer, Tinkel said.
The program requires residents to apply and choose a shade tree from an approved list.
Benevolent residents interested in paying for the total cost of a street tree are allowed to replace a street tree adjacent to their property on their own, but they have to get approval from the city first. Tinkel said he visits every property before a tree is approved to make sure it is the right species, meets specifications and is planted correctly.
Residents can begin applying for both programs Tuesday.