City of Duncan workers were busy this week in City Square and Station Street removing a number of American sweet gum trees and replacing them with other, more suitable, tree species.
Council pre-approved $4,000 for the project from its 2022 budget at its meeting on March 21 because it’s better for the work be completed at this time of year.
The American sweet gum trees in City Square were planted in 2005 when upgrades in the area were completed.
A staff report by Brian Murphy, Duncan’s director of public works and engineering, said that it has become evident that these trees are not suitable for the locations where they were planted.
He said the American sweet gum tree grows 60 to 70 feet tall and spreads 40 to 50 feet wide at maturity, and has a shallow root system and does not react well to pollution.
“The sweet gum trees on the west side of City Square are planted no more than 10 feet from the buildings, and the trees that line the centre of the square are also only approximately 10 feet apart,” Murphy said.
“The tree roots are creating potential tripping hazards amongst the brick paving stones in City Square. The sweet gum trees in front of the Pharmasave are root bound into their small planter space and are breaking through the concrete border. The same issue has been occurring on Station Street where the four sweet gum trees are causing bricks to heave and are creating potential tripping hazards.”
Murphy said along with these issues, this species of tree is prone to large branch failure due in part to their weak branch attachments and the weight of their seed pods on each limb.
He said they also shed these seed pods by the hundreds, creating not only a mess in the area surrounding them, but also the risk of a slip or fall in this area of high-pedestrian traffic and vehicle parking.
“During recent snowfalls, there has been a significant number of large branch failures on the trees located on the north side of Station Street, as well as the ones located in City Square,” Murphy said.
“The trees were left with severe wounds. The root system has also cut off the irrigation line feeding the banner poles that water the moss baskets in the summer, resulting in more hand watering requirements.”
The work being done this week is stage two of the project, which began last year when city workers removed the two sweet gum trees on the west side of Craig Street, at the entrance and exit to City Square, as well as the removal of the three sweet gums along the north end of Station Street.
This week, the three sweet gum trees at the north end of the planters in City Square along Ingram Street were removed, as well as the one remaining sweet gum tree that was located on the south side of Station Street.
Phase three, which will see the removal of the remaining five sweet gum trees that run down the centre of City Square, is planned for 2023.
Murphy said the replacement trees will remain consistent with the other trees in City Square and along Station Street.