Local News

Durham Tree Trimmers Try to Save Green

Posted July 31, 2007 7:40 p.m. EDT
Updated August 1, 2007 8:28 a.m. EDT

— 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.