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Durham Tree Trimmers Try to Save Green

Posted July 31, 2007
Updated August 1, 2007

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— Power crews cutting tree limbs in Durham are under new supervision after residents complained they trimmed away too much.

Residents in the Northgate Park said pruning jobs done two weeks ago cut too deeply into trees and left them looking aesthetically unpleasing.

"Your property values are higher if you have well-maintained trees, and they've also found crime rates are lower in tree-lined neighborhoods,” said Shiflett, a longtime resident of Northgate Park and a former member of the city’s appearance committee who said she has studied the value of trees in neighborhoods.

Alex Johnson, Durham's Urban Forestry Director, accompanied tree-trimming crews as they returned to the streets Tuesday after a two-week break. Johnson said he's responsible for inspecting each cut that workers make

Crews have adopted different techniques to leave more green on the trees, Johnson said.

"They (crews) were cutting a pathway into an area where they needed to prune, rather than repositioning their truck," Johnson said.

City Councilman Mike Woodard planned to tour some work sites with a Duke Energy representative Tuesday night to see if there was any improvement.

Duke Energy officials called tree trimming a balancing act between aesthetic and safety concerns around wires that each carry between 12,000 and 24,000 volts of electricity.

"If tree limbs get into them, it's a safety hazard, because it can conduct electricity to the ground and people," said Ken Kernodle, a customer relations manager with Duke Energy Carolinas.

Crews have started to try to leave more green on trees, Kernodle said.

Neighbors said they are still upset by the knobby stubs left behind by the earlier work.

"You can never change that. Once you've cut those trees that way, they're always going to be ugly. They're always going to be deformed," Shiflett said.

Tree-trimming crews will finish work in Durham in a few months, energy officials estimated.

The most recent tree-trimming effort in Durham was in 1998, Duke Energy officials said. The company usually prunes trees every five to eight years, officials said.

Neighborhoods without full-grown trees miss out, Shiflett said.

"It just makes you cozier and part of nature to have these great trees," said Shiflett.


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  • Nancy Aug 2, 2007

    Property owners are free to plant and enjoy trees all they wish, city and state officials that find trees in public right of ways have the authority and need to address those that compromise service of utilities carried in those right of ways.

    Yes, it's really that simple.

  • OpinionOnEverything Aug 2, 2007

    DurhamRaleigh: I see where you're coming from. It's like the saying "I have mine, so you can't have yours", is that right? I'm glad to see your investment in gentrified Durham is paying off, but since most of us can pay $400+K for a 1200 sq ft bungalow on Trinity Avenue, we are forced to live in the suburbs and drive to work. Believe me if we had a choice in the matter, we would avoid downtown Durham altogether, but I do have a right to go anywhere I want and an expectation to have uninterrupted power. You do not have the right to preserve a state of neglect in having overgrown trees just to increase your property values.

  • Local_NC_Native Aug 2, 2007

    "Wah! Don't cut the trees!"

    "Wah! My power is out because a limb fell on the lines!"

    Pot, meet kettle - Kettle, meet pot.

  • Durham-Raleigh Aug 2, 2007

    RoadGeek: Doesn't matter who has paid the taxes; the point is, they've been paid. Residential property is like a bond, or better yet, a perpetuity -- an initial capital inflow (of private dollars, plus public infrastructural dollars) that leads to long-term revenue for city governments. Id est, urban neighborhoods are windfalls for cities, they support downtown businesses and restaurants, and improve the property values of suburbs. Our properties have paid their way many times.

    How nice that we've figured out to bury power lines. We've also figured out low-e glass and vinyl siding, too. But you're not going to see folks in historic neighborhoods put either of those in, either.

    It's not only about property values. It's about aesthetics and liveability, too. And hey, we don't have impact fees in N.C. -- don't whine about my trees, and I won't whine about having to build freeways, highways, schools, and sewer connections for you, eh?

  • GulfWarVet Aug 1, 2007

    Vee-out pruning (http://www.menard.com/gifs/tree_vee_prune.gif) is healthiest for the trees. Merely topping the trees has been proven by the late Dr. Alex Shigo to be extremely detrimental to trees, and thus the ISA as well as Duke Energy embrace modern thinking that making selective pruning cuts will eventually aid the tree in a speedier recovery. Also, it tricks the tree out of producing unwanted apical water sprouts or witches brooms which would be observed as a consequence of improper pruning techniques.

    I have had the great privelege to prune some of these magnificent trees throughout Durham and routinely encouraged land owners to consult with private tree services to prune out the dead and decay to aid these trees in continuing forth in the years ahead.

    One thing to keep in mind: It is harder on a mature tree than it is on a younger tree to recover from injuries/pruning. That's why we should train the trees young.

  • OpinionOnEverything Aug 1, 2007

    Durham-Raleigh: You certainly haven't been paying taxes for 50-100 years to support anybody! In fact, the reason we have this problem in your area is due to 50-100 years of neglect that your gentrified neighborhoods seem to want to preserve. Power lines in the suburbs are buried today to prevent power outages from falling trees, and because that's the way things are done today based on what we've learned from the past, not just because of aesthetic reasons. If people are so intent on saving overgrown trees for property value reasons, then they shoud be the ones to pay to have them preserved.

  • hp277 Aug 1, 2007

    Some of the trees on Broad St do look like goalposts now with the center cut out of them, but what is the power company supposed to do? The folks complaining about this should sign an agreement to be the very last ones to get their power restored after a storm.

    I am sick of waiting a week or more for my power to be restored even though my utility lines are underground, all because a few folks are complaining about their poorly placed trees being trimmed. Next time, maybe I'll just dump the rotten contents of my frig on the Shiflett's lawn.

  • GulfWarVet Aug 1, 2007

    burying distribution lines under/around established trees is not that big a deal. There are specific tools that can be used to burrow a tunnel "UNDER" the roots, such that the tree won't be disturbed. Granted that is the EXPENSIVE way to go... and to bury power lines costs $1000s. But depending on the topography of the relative lot, the line(s) could be buried "around" the root system.

    But, unless one has an unrealistic amount of money they need to dispense with, burying lines is a LESS reliable way to go. Would this customer want to be the one everyone looks at every time the power goes out?

    I say, take a few healthy prunings from the trees, and they'll be good for another 7-10yrs, with respect to the service reliability of the power lines.

  • SANDHILL Aug 1, 2007

    Ms Shiflett also would like power lines under ground. If she is willing to bear the expense of this change I am shure it could be arranged. But that might cut the tree roots and the whole tree could die. I do not think Duke does enough tree trimming. That is a big cause of the long delays in power restoration after a storm.

  • rnapcs1 Aug 1, 2007

    Ms Shifflett:
    Get a life I live in the same area. I feel the tree cutting is fine guess what the trees grow back. Their are many other issues in the area of greater concern than the trees. I have attended the neighborhood meeting to find nothing more than a social gathering and a bunch of noisy people wsanting to know your personal business. I too am along time resident in this area of pompus attitudes.