Eagle to replace blown-down trees
Vail, CO Colorado
EAGLE ” Eagle’s “urban forest” is a bit sparser this week.
A gusty wind toppled three mature locust trees in downtown Eagle the night of April 18. The uprooted trees crashed to the ground without damaging any buildings or vehicles.
Evidence suggests that the trees were the victim of both disease and some root damage that occurred during streetscape work last summer. According to local landscaper Steve Tarrant, the trees showed signs of root rot and were suffering from some misguided pruning about 15 years ago.
The town will replace the fallen trees and will also remove and replace a fourth damaged locust in front of the Alpine Ambiance store.
“We are actively searching for new locusts, as large as we can find,” said Yuri Kostick, assistant planner for the town.
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Mature trees are valued not only for their ability to provide shade, but also for their impact on air quality and aesthetics, he said.
Town Manager Willy Powell said the responsibility for replacing the trees rests with the town. He said the initial design for the Broadway streetscape called for the trees, which are estimated to be 50-60 years old, to be removed because of their condition, and their impact on the streetscape design.
“The adjacent property owners had some understandable concerns regarding mature tree removal,” Powell said.
Ultimately, the streetscape design was changed to accommodate the trees.
“Those involved in the planning and construction process were aware of the risk to the trees, and that they might not survive construction,” he said.
Various arborists and designers were consulted during both the design and construction process.
Tarrant, owner of Brush Creek Landscaping and Urban Forestry, said the roots that were holding the big trees in place were cut during the construction of the new sidewalk.
“The operator of the machine doesn’t know anything about trees. He just kept on digging,” Tarrant said.
He estimates that the physical trauma caused 75 percent of the damage to the trees. The other 25 percent was root rot, which was already starting to take effect, he said.
“When you excavate around them, it is pretty tricky to keep trees growing,” Tarrant said. “Trees tend to be time consuming. Now people are starting to realize that, and are starting to take a proactive route, instead of such devastation.”
Powell said in retrospect, the town should not have incorporated the trees into the streetscape design.
“There is no reason to play a blame game. Neither the project design or the contractor is at fault. The town just made a questionable design decision,” said Powell.
Kostick said urban forestry research indicates that the average life of a “street tree” is about eight years.
“A lot more trees die than make it,” he noted.
The town is working on a forestry program with local arborists. Preliminary work has begun on cataloging of local trees.
Since 1993 the town has been actively bolstering the “urban forest” by giving away hundreds of trees. Property owners must promise to plant the trees in the front of their property. Last year, the town gave away 225 trees.
The new trees in Eagle’s Broadway streetscape are mostly locusts, Kostick said.
“They were all hand-picked, professionally pruned, and deep-root fertilized. They’re as healthy as can be,” he said.