Environmental Commission considers street tree replacement plan

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By Cayden Royce
The Meridian Times

The environmental commission discussed implementation of damaged street tree removal and replacement for residents at the meeting.

“This is a community that embraces the environment and certainly trees are part of that environment,” said Manager Frank Walsh.

In April 2014, the township organized a curbside brush and limb pick-up program for residents after an ice storm left residents without power for 11 days in late December.

Public Works and Engineering Director Raymond Severy said the program lasted until the end of April and if more cleanup is necessary in the future, the township will restructure parts of the process.

“We might want to change the scope of our program and direct responsibility to the residents at a central location,” Severy said.

If the commission introduces a similar platform to replace trees throughout the community, Walsh says it would be welcomed by the public.

Associate Planner Rick Brown said that the director of community planning and development suggested that the commission construct a proposal.

The commission estimated that up to 50 trees would need to be replaced due to severe weather within the past year.

“The commission is primarily advisory and secondarily educational, so they can’t pose ordinances but they can help educate people and make them more aware of environmental issues,” Brown said.

The commission is deciding between two options: providing grants or funding to homeowners who have lost trees to weather and other accidents or consulting with local nurseries to see if discounts would be offered to replace the trees. Brown said a couple members are going to contact local nurseries and obtain further information about each alternative.

The tentative plan is to replant a variety of trees that have been lost within the past 10 years.
Van Atta’s Greenhouse and Flower Shop is accustomed to working with cities and townships that need trees replaced, said Sales Manager Lisa Bashline. And she said they always offer discounts to municipalities and wholesalers.

She also said the store has sold trees, shrubs and decorative plants to Meridian Township in addition to working with surrounding areas.

Bashline said the tree and shrub department experienced between a 10 and 15 percent increase in sales due to replacement in the past year and the nursery is preparing for the upcoming winter.

“The Farmer’s Almanac says we’re going to have a winter that’s worse,” Bashline said.
Each year, the nursery covers leftover trees to prevent damage. If the almanac is correct, Bashline said the tree and shrub department will order more trees to keep up with demand.

“One more hard winter with a lot of ice or heavy snow could then damage the trees that were weakened last year,” Bashline said.

During the meeting, the commission considered having around 10 types of trees available for residents.

Van Atta’s Landscaper TJ Arnst has planted several trees at Meridian Township parks in the past year and said it’s common for street trees to need replacements.

“This last year has caused a lot of removals just because of the ice storm because the one thing about street trees is they tend not to be a hardwood tree,” he said. “So a lot of your softwood trees are more susceptible to ice damage or storm damage.”

Arnst suggested different varieties of street trees that can endure harsh weather but he said it would depend on how much money the municipality is willing to spend.
The commission members are going to report their findings and determine how to proceed with the plan next month.

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