Talk of managing or replacing the trees that line the downtown area of Park Hills continued during a recent council work session.
“We’ve had these trees down here for probably about 22 years and they're beautiful when they're in bloom,” explained City Administrator Mark McFarland. "But we planted the wrong kind ... Bradford Pear trees.”
Bradford Pear is now considered an "invasive species" by the Missouri Department of Conservation. This particular species of tree produces root structures that expand laterally and cause damage to surrounding sidewalks and building foundations.
McFarland mentioned two possible plans for the trees. The first plan came from Living Tree Care, Inc. president Phil Burwick, owner of a tree management company, who was brought in by Councilman Steve Weinhold to give an analysis and recommendation.
The plan Burwick proposed was to contain the root systems of the trees and prevent them from damaging the sidewalks, a method known as air spading.
This method would remove the soil from the edge of the sidewalk walls and any root found to be growing under the sidewalks would be pruned by hand. Then root barriers would be installed around the tree preventing the roots from growing under the sidewalks and causing damage.
This plan also calls for a Cambistat treatment, a tree growth regulator that slows the vegetative growth of trees. It would be applied to each tree which will slow the longitudinal growth of the tree by about 60 percent and increase the diameter growth for at least three years.
Burwick said the city botched the pruning of the downtown trees and proposed some corrective pruning be done as well.
As to the cost of this first plan, McFarland stated there are about 11 trees that would require attention. The root excavation on all four sides of each tree would be $1,200 per tree, or a total cost of $13,200. The cost of the Cambistat treatment would be is $135 per tree totaling $1,485. Root pruning treatment would cost $150 per tree, or a total of $1,650; and corrective pruning for all trees is $600. The total cost of the first plan would be $16,935.
The second plan proposed, devised by McFarland himself, is to have the street department remove all the trees this fall, and replant a different species known as Washington Hawthorns. McFarland said this species of tree was recommended by Becky Fletcher of the Missouri Department of Conservation. The hawthorns bloom similar to the Bradford Pear but do not grow as large.
McFarland suggested that simply containing the roots of the existing trees would not solve all the issues. In addition to the destructive root structures, the trees also produce a type of berry that, when eaten by birds and deposited in other areas, grow a different type of plant with large thorns.
Also in his plan is to remove all the grates around the trees and fill them with concrete and then purchase tree planters which sit above ground and keep the roots contained. The parks department would then water the plants daily while they’re doing their daily cleaning of the downtown area.
The cost of this plan would include the fuel cost related to cutting the trees down and removing the roots and stumps and the cost for the concrete to fill in the grated areas and the planters. The cost of the new trees would be in the range of $15 to $124, depending on how tall of a tree the city opted to purchase. McFarland suggested getting the tallest trees available. To obtain the higher end trees would cost the city about $1,364 for the 11 trees in need of replacement.
McFarland estimated the total cost of his plan, at a maximum, would be $5,000 or less.
The administrator went on to explain that there is a grant for community tree management offered through the MDC. This grant can range anywhere between $1,000-$10,000 and is a “60/40” grant, meaning the city would need to pay 40 percent of the project’s cost and the state grant would cover the remaining 60 percent.
All plans and proposals will be brought up in the next council meeting.