P&R Begins New Downtown Tree Program

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2By Terry Rogers

Walnut Street in Milford is lined with 32 trees and 20 bushes. Front Street is lined with 17 trees. Throughout Memorial Park and Bicentennial Park, there are 50 trees. The trees include cherries, hollies, oaks, locusts, oak, crapes, maples and red buds. In addition to the many trees throughout the city, there are also rose, burning and bayberry bushes adding to the beauty of the town.

“The town has gone to a lot of expense and effort to plant trees throughout the town,” said Brad Dennehy, Director of Milford Parks and Recreation. “We wanted to start a program that would keep these trees healthy and thriving for many years to come. For this reason, we have started a preventative maintenance program through Arbor Care, a company that focuses only on the health of trees and bushes.” Mr. Dennehy said that this was something that had never been done before and that he has already seen some improvement in the health of trees in the area.

Mr. Dennehy said that he was hearing comments from citizens that the trees in the downtown area seemed to look unhealthy. After inspection, he determined that there were some problems in the downtown area, which is why he called in Arbor Care as a consultant. Mr. Dennehy said that the company immediately identified some problems with trees downtown and the city has already taken steps to address them.

“One of the things they noticed was that the lights on the trees were restricting tree growth,” Mr. Dennehy said. “We have since removed the lights from the branches and placed them on the tree guards to give the branches a break. Arbor Care has already performed fall treatments of the trees and we expect them to do so three or four times each year.”

Ritchie Thurman of Arbor Care said that the goal of the company is to maintain the investment the city made in streetscaping over the years. Mr. Thurman said that because the company is not in the tree selling business, they can recommend different options that may help save a tree or bush in the city rather than push the city to purchase a new tree like some other companies may do.

“When dealing with trees, it is important to think of them like people,” Mr. Thurman said. “When the immune system of the tree is down or they are under stress, they are more likely to get sick, just like people. Trees in a city setting are often under much more stress than trees in forests as they are exposed to more toxins. The heat from asphalt, exhaust fumes and limited soil can all contribute to problems with trees in a town or city that those in a forest never have to deal with.”

According to Mr. Thurman, a tree with dull green or yellow leaves is under stress and needs assistance. Unfortunately, many people instantly look toward chemicals to treat a sick tree, when sometimes that is not the answer. One example he gave was aphids, saying that when people see aphids on a plant, they instantly think chemicals need to be sprayed to keep the insects from destroying the plant. However, a healthy plant should attract other insects who will feed on the aphids, keeping the plant healthy without the use of chemicals. Therefore, Arbor Care’s goal is to keep the plant healthy so they can fight off pests and diseases on their own without need for chemicals.

Mr. Thurman said that the company will review the most cost-effective way to manage trees and bushes in the downtown area. He said that they will always treat the tree initially using a variety of methods. If that treatment is not successful, they will recommend replacing the tree and provide the city with options for what types of tree would work best in that location. He said that every tree in the city will be treated and evaluated individually as a willow tree requires different care than a cherry tree and a holly tree requires different care than a maple tree.

“We will also make recommendations regarding the size of trees,” Mr. Thurman said. “We may need to implement growth limiter programs for some trees and this process takes some fine-tuning. We may use a regulator to stunt the growth of the tree to keep it out of power lines or from impeding the view for drivers in the downtown area. Many times, growth limiters help the tree grow thicker and may make them healthier as the nutrients are more focused.”

Mr. Thurman said that each year requires different types of treatments as weather conditions can make a difference in the health of a tree. He said the main goal is to keep the trees as healthy as possible as healthy trees and plants rarely suffer from diseases like scale or fungus. Arbor Care tries to use as much organic product as possible and every product they use is safe for people, pets and vehicles.

Mr. Dennehy said that the program instituted through Arbor Care is only one of the many things the City is doing to improve the aesthetics of the downtown area. They have installed new, low-voltage LED lights on the Riverwalk that will allow the city to change the colors throughout the year using a simple smartphone app.

“We’ll be able to make it red and green for Christmas, green for the St. Patrick’s Day Pub Crawl,” Mr. Dennehy said. “We’re working every day to make downtown Milford and our parks more attractive to residents and visitors. The agreement with Arbor Care is just one of the ways we are trying to make the downtown area beautiful.”