Tree Hazard Policy for Cities

BetterTreeCare

New Member
City's tree fell on car, breaking driver's back. Tree had dangerous lean, girdling root and much decay. City's insurance company wants to know what city should do to exercise "due care" and avoid liability for future accidents.

Anyone with municipal experience willing to share what other cities do to exercise due care?
 

okietreedude1

New Member
Location
Enid, Ok
Though I dont have much municipal experience, I think a good start would be to hire a group to do a street tree evaluation, designate a local tree board, and decide which dept has time/money it the dept budget to do tree work. Proper hiring, training, equip. all takes money, but it could be $ well spent. Besides, it would eventually start making the towns trees look better.

Here in Oklahoma, many cities are just starting to hire city foresters. The cf does all the leg work (evals, inventory, etc) and the tree work is then bid out to local tree firms.

The town I live in wont do anything about the trees. It could be a street tree blown into the street and the city will bulldoze it into the homeowners yard and say "Now its your turn. Have a nice day!" and leave the homeowner to clean it up.

Hope it helps.
 

BetterTreeCare

New Member
Good ideas; the steps you mention are ones the National Arbor Day Foundation requires for Tree City USA status. $2./person/year is what they look for.

In NC any job with 'forester' in the title requires a forestry degree. This puts a lot of city trees in the care of people who aren't trained to manage them, since forestry training is geared to timber production only. Is it the same in OK?

Here too some cities wait for trees to fall over before acting. Many others look at the top of the tree only and cut down safe trees because they lean a little while ignoring serious defects in the trunk and roots. But after a serious accident it has to pay millions$$$, so one insurance company is looking very hard at seeing that this city exercises due care.

Any other experience with cities 5-25,000 population and hazard management? Thanks for the response.
 

Joey_P

New Member
Location
Nova Scotia
It is similar here with the local utility. There is nobody with formal arboriculture training, just forestry. I'm not saying they aren't well educated, but they have a different perspective. They don't see the value of the individual trees nor look at individual species when deciding the proper treatment for line clearance. It can be quite frustrating and discouraging at times. All one can do is voice their opinion and continue to try and change it a little at a time.
 

BetterTreeCare

New Member
Yes, foresters have a very different, and often destructive perspective on trees. I like your philosophy of voicing opinions (and backing them with science) and trying to change things a little at a time.

As long as city trees are managed by foresters not arborists it'll be a struggle.
 

TreeDr

Active Member
Location
Watchung, NJ
We had an unfortunate thing happen here in Jersey last year. There was a girl who was killed by a tree that failed while she had lunch on the high school lawn.

Although I didn't see the site, (and I didn't want to because her parents are my customer), it was said it was a +/- 80' Black Oak that failed about thirty feet up. No way to detect it unless you resistographed every foot of the tree from top to bottom.

With immediate access to a resistograph I had thought of approaching every school distict to offer hazard tree assessments. Easy sale at the time for sure. I could of made a small fortune. Then I thought about the whole scenario. What if I miss one thing and something freak happens? Someone gets hurt or possibly killed and then I'm totally screwed and emotionally traumatized because I should have picked something up.

Although this incident open up my eyes and changed the way I look at trees, I did not approach township officials to offer my consultation. Its not worth the potential repercussions. Its definately sad the way people are today as far as liabilities and sometimes I feel I am morally obligated to do the right thing arboriculturally, but I can't risk it.

I guess the moral of my story is don't hang your neck out too far and get in trouble trying to capitalize on an unfortunate incident. Cover your ass because you will get sued if you don't.
 

BetterTreeCare

New Member
it was a +/- 80' Black Oak that failed about thirty feet up. No way to detect it unless you resistographed every foot of the tree from top to bottom.

No defect visible? That may be true, but it may not too. When a tree that old breaks in half something big is wrong, and it'd be highly unusual for it to have no external signs.
Can you link more info about that story?

I am morally obligated to do the right thing arboriculturally, but I can't risk it.

TreeDr, we all have to risk it. The Resistograph is one tool of many useful for inspection. Likewise city staff and consultants are just a few individuals involved in a successful program. Broad citizen involvement is key to a city's affordable and comprehensive program of due care.

I'll attach a report on a program of due care for your review and comments. You're right, it would be wrong to get rich off misery.
 

TreeDr

Active Member
Location
Watchung, NJ
No defect visible? That may be true, but it may not too. When a tree that old breaks in half something big is wrong, and it'd be highly unusual for it to have no external signs. (I didn't make it up, I've seen perfectly strucurally sound trees fail under the right conditions)

but I can't risk it.

TreeDr, we all have to risk it. (not me, I'm not playing poker here)

Broad citizen involvement is key to a city's affordable and comprehensive program of due care.

How do you regulate that and who assumes responsibility should an incident occur?

Point of the story is that I would dred the day I said a tree was OK and have it fail and hurt someone, so I am more proactive in telling someone to remove a tree if I see the smallest defect than I was two years ago trying to save every tree I inspected.

Its sad to say but the only safe tree is one in the chipper and/or on the log truck.
 

Nathan

New Member
Location
Austin, TX
</font><blockquote><font class="small">In reply to:</font><hr />
Its sad to say but the only safe tree is one in the chipper and/or on the log truck

[/ QUOTE ]


It is true but it is sad when tree mgmt comes to that.

Trees defy gravity and can quit that struggle at any time.
 

treejac

New Member
It is not what you say, but how you say it. Making refference to a tree defect is one thing, but saying a tree is perfectly healthy is another.

Think about it.

Matt
 

klimbinfool

New Member
I work for a municipality . Each tree is inventoried and rated .But depending on the amount of trees to the ratio of crew, you can only do so much to avoid liability factors.



Excir

Our city uses the policy of ( act of nature) i think that its kind of crappy , but nothing I can do about it .I've seen many trees fall and damadge houses and cars and they still claim act of nature even though the tree might have been listed as a removal one or two, or priority one .

The best way to avoid liability problems is to evaluate all trees within the city right of way , and asses the hazards.Starting with removals and then working to hazard prunning (Priorities) down to rutine pruning . (Rutine large or small) Once the trees are in inventory they should contract out the removals and maybe some of the hazard prunes. This saves the city alot of money and usually puts all the burdan on the contracter. But conrtacting depends on how many tree crews the city has .
In our case we have around forty thousdand trees and Six crew members. So we contract some of the removals on a quarterly basis .

Bringing in outside arborist ( other then the Urban forester ) is very neccesary at times to evaluate the hazard trees so the opinion is not biased. Most Urban foresters want to save everything or at least prolong the inevability of the tree, which down the road falls and crashes on someones car or house.

Even though I hate to see contracting in our city , I know it's neccesary and they can pulll up the slack were we cant, which in turn saves the city from huge liability problems.

There is much more to this . I only kind of gave you the hi lights.

Hope this helps .
Greg
 

TheTreeSpyder

Well-Known Member
Location
Florida>>> USA
i'm surprised Tom hasn't responded as i waited for him to give up this link, perhaps to humble again....

Here is a link that Tom shared earlier about just such a project that he werked and wrote on; Urban Tree Risk Management: A Community Guide to Program Design and Implementation

It has become one of my more recomended readings on web to tree interested peoples. It addresses and pictures various types of risks and strategies specificaly as well as general trimming understanding.

The other best trimming link i've seen was recomended in Sherrill's newest catalog Univ. of Fl. trimming woody plants; whcih doesn't give quite the view of risk assesment of the production above; but is still very good, clear, concise and pictured tree care. This gives one site each researched in 2 different extremes of climate.
 

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