Neighborhood Environment Committee Continues With Its Focus on Preserving Historic Dilworth Trees
At the beginning of the year, we started rebuilding the Neighborhood Environment Committee and shifted the center of the committee’s work to the protection of Dilworth’s dwindling number of historic trees and the planting of new oaks and other suitable hardwood trees. After a summer break due to committee members’ work and travel outside of Charlotte, we will continue to pursue our agenda this fall. We would like to thank donors who financially supported our work during the past months and would like to encourage anyone interested in trees to come to our meetings (every fourth Wednesday of the month at 7:00 pm at Tom Sykes Recreation Center, 1501 Euclid Avenue). For copies of the minutes for past minutes, please contact the committee’s chairperson Thomas Pegelow Kaplan at email@example.com.
Public Meeting with Staff of the City Arborist’s Office about Public Trees
Charlotte has its own City Arborist’s Office headed by veteran arborist Don McSween. This office is in charge of street tree management (including trees on the neighborhood’s street curbs), including the pruning of existing trees and planting of new trees to replace dead or diseased ones. This office, thus, manages a large number of Dilworth’s remaining historic willow oaks. In order to clarify existing policies and practices and offer ways to support the office’s work in ways that benefit Dilworth, we invited the City Arborist to a meeting this past spring. We are especially keen on involving those Dilworth residents more in the process whose street curb trees are particularly impacted by this office’s work (i.e. Dilworthians who have trees that are currently marked for removal, etc.).
See CharMeck Tree Management for all your questions about street trees.
Working with the Historic District Commission on Private Trees
In the Dilworth Historic District, the Historic District Commission oversees trees on private properties that are larger than six inches in diameter (and front-yard trees that are smaller than six inches in diameter—see June 2013 issue of the Dilworth Quarterly). Wanda Birmingham serves as the senior HDC staff member and we have reached out to her to improve the protection of these private trees and the enforcement of tree protection policies. We particularly want to avoid the removal of trees without prior HDC approval or for dubious reasons of (in-)convenience (such as concerns about the removal of tree leaves in the fall or cars dirtied by tree pollen in the spring). We are also working with the HDC staff and the full Historic District Commission in an effort to create regulations about private tree replacement in case of a removal of a large historic tree. The current rules are, regrettably, inadequate.
Checking Up on Master Street Tree Planting Plan for Dilworth
In 2011, with the ardent involvement and lots of work by DCA board members and former Neighborhood Environment Committee activists, Dilworth received its Master Street Tree Planting Plan. The City Arborist’s Office has started to use the plan in its efforts to fill the growing holes in the neighborhood’s tree canopy and pledged to continue to do so in coming years. At a time when state and municipal governments celebrate large-scale austerity policies and financial cuts, the ongoing implementation of such a plan is in itself an achievement. Yet, the record of planting new trees (outsourced to private companies) has been anything but perfect. A considerable number of newly planted trees, for instance, has not been cared for and died (Do you remember the truck that drove around the neighborhood to collect dead trees last summer?). Thus, it is time to check up on the progress of putting the plan into action. With community involvement and help from larger organizations (we are currently in conversation with Dilworth- and Charlotte-based Girl Scouts troops), our committee will document successes and shortcomings. We will also offer specific suggestions to improve the Master Street Tree Planting Plan and work with neighbors who are already involved in these kinds of efforts.
Tackling those Pesky Overhead Power Lines
Unfortunately, Dilworth is home to an excessive number of overhead power lines. Like many U.S. cities and Charlotte in general, our neighborhood suffers from old infrastructure, including old-fashioned power lines that are more than just an eyesore. These lines have also become a major problem for preservation efforts regarding Dilworth’s historic trees. Often careless and excessive pruning by Duke Energy, the owner of the power lines, has compromised the visual appeal of the tree canopy, damaged, and destroyed entire trees (see article in Dilworth Quarterly’s June 2013 issue). This is an increasing problem across North Carolina and the United States and communities have resorted to various means to get a handle on it. Residents have complained to Duke Energy individually. When a homeowner in Carrboro, NC, for example, tried to intervene in the removal of trees in front of her home, Duke Energy officials called the police on her. Last year, neighborhoods in Greensboro, NC, threatened legal action and succeeded in getting the City Council to take on the issue of extreme tree pruning. The strong corporate culture and different political landscape in Charlotte require alternative approaches. We will support already ongoing conversations with Duke Energy about power lines and pruning and seek to open new channels of communication to champion better solutions, including the shift to burying power lines—a standard practice in many Western European countries.
Offering Small Grants to Homeowners to Help with Tree Pruning and Planting
The Neighborhood Environment Committee, finally, seeks to entice homeowners to plant trees on their private properties and have existing historic trees serviced to prolong their life span. Some Dilworth residents have signaled to us that financial help would spur them into action. After all, in a late capitalist society, money talks and tree services can indeed be quite costly. While our funds are very limited, we will work on offering small grants, develop criteria for the application process (all Dilworth residents should be eligible), and establish recommendations for suitable trees to be planted.
The DCA’s Neighborhood Environment Committee’s tree initiatives are of course not limited to these points and we are always in search for input and suggestions. Contact the committee chair or simply come to one of its regular meetings (see above). Let’s get back to work to protect our trees!
From Dilworth Quarterly – July 26, 2013