Trees are awesome.
As in awe inspiring, and incredibly important as we plan our communities.
But they can also be a costly nuisance if some thought isn’t put into where they are planted and what varieties are used.
The City of Duncan is currently finding this out first-hand as they look to take out American sweet gum trees that were planted in 2005 throughout City Square and down Station Street.
As it turns out, this tree variety has a number of characteristics that make it entirely unsuitable for where they’ve been planted. The trees don’t like pollution. They have a shallow root system, and to top it all off the species is prone to large branch failure.
So the middle of a city, where there is ample vehicle pollution, isn’t a great match. The shallow root systems mean the trees are buckling roads, sidewalks and planters, and have even cut off a sprinkler system. And those large branches that can fail? Well, a number of them have in the snow — in an area where there are numerous cars and pedestrians that could have been harmed if they’d been caught underneath them.
It all begs the question, did the folks who chose these trees for planting in Duncan do any research at all? A modicum, a smidge or a pinch? Because it doesn’t look like it from here in 2022. These seem like they were entirely predictable problems that could have been avoided, along with the cost of fixing them this late in the game. Not to mention the interim fixes of buckling brick and pavement and the clean-up of fallen branches that has been needed over the years.
Thank goodness better care is being taken going forward in choosing replacements. Because we really want to see trees in downtown Duncan. More than that, we really need them. There’s an awful lot of pavement downtown, which gets awfully hot in the summer, especially as we anticipate more extreme heat waves in the years to come. Trees can help a great deal with mitigating temperatures both for people in nearby buildings and pedestrians on the sidewalks. It’s no accident that the temperature drops several degrees when you get into the woods in the summer. Don’t underestimate the power of some natural shade.
The sweet gums certainly provide a lesson, not just to Duncan but to all of the other municipalities that are busy beautifying and tree planting this spring. In the spirit of measure twice, cut once, choose species that are going to thrive in an urban setting.