The City of Duncan will restring the decorative lights in City Square and Station Street in the next few weeks after concerns were raised about their removal.
City workers removed the decorative lights from the trees in April after noticing damage to the trunk of one of the younger trees that was caused by the lights being left in place year after year and interfering with natural tree growth.
Brian Murphy, Duncan’s director of public works and engineering, told council at its meeting on May 16 that staff had made the decision to remove all of the lights for the growing season this year in order to allow the trees some time to heal and grow, and restring the lights in the fall after the peak of the growing season.
“But individuals have raised concerns about the absence of the lights and stressed the importance of these lights for downtown Duncan, and have questioned when the lights will be restrung,” he told council.
Mayor Michelle Staples told council at an earlier meeting that she, personally, had also received some negative feedback from the community about the removal of the lights.
Murphy said staff will restring the lights this spring, likely in early June, after full-leaf bloom is complete on the trees.
Murphy asked that the city establish a long-term approach for the stringing of the lights, and said staff will bring a draft policy to council for consideration at a later date.
He advised council that, to the best of staff’s current knowledge, the best practice for protecting trees from the damage caused by decorative lighting is to remove the lights over the growing season each year and restring the lights in the fall, after the peak of the growing season.
But he said, recognizing the clear importance of the decorative lights to the downtown business community and residents, the best alternative would be for staff to inspect the lights annually and to loosen and re-string the lights across the trunk and branches of any tree that appears to require restringing, in the spring prior to leaf bloom.
Murphy said restringing the lights will not require that the lights be removed for a significant length of time.
“However, the trees will still be exposed to some degree of ongoing stress from having the lights in place year-round,” he said.
“In any given year, [staff] would make the determination if one or a select few of the trees should be left without lights during the growing season to allow time for those specific trees to grow and heal. This decision would be made on a tree-by-tree basis and would be particularly applicable for younger or previously damaged trees. But the majority of trees would still have the decorative lights remain in place or be re-strung right away.”
Murphy said staff will also continue to investigate options or alternative approaches for stringing the lights that may be less damaging to the trees, or may allow a longer period of time between restringing efforts.