December 5, 2006

Sandy Springs on Cutting Edge of Tree Conservation

In what may be the most significant change to an existing Atlanta area tree ordinance,the City of Sandy Springs is drafting an entirely new tree ordinance. The new one is proposed to replace the standing ordinance, which is currently a duplicate of the Fulton County ordinance with a few administrative changes.

The changes are not small. Rather than give the existing ordinance a tune-up, the proposed ordinance will dramatically change the way trees are inventoried, preserved, and replanted on construction sites and new developments. There will be an emphasis on tree canopy cover instead of trunk inches, and an improved method of accounting replacement and protected trees.

Sandy Springs citizens will have more opportunities to comment on the City’s proposed Tree Ordinance in the coming months. There will be a public hearing at 7 p.m. on Jan. 11, 2007, at City Hall. The Advisory Committee will meet at 7 p.m. on Dec. 11 and Jan. 22, 2007. A draft of the ordinance, which promotes conservation, is available for review on the City’s Web site at www.sandyspringsga.org. The City Council is expected to take action on the Tree Ordinance on Feb. 6, 2007.

November 28, 2006

Georgia Arborist Association Breaks Loose with 10k Grant

The Georgia Arborist Association is charging forward in its efforts to organize local tree care companies, thanks to a $10,000 grant from the Georgia Foerstry Commission through its Urban & Community Forestry Grant program. The 14-year old professional association of tree workers, arborists, and tree enthusiasts is using the grant to fund the GAA's first executive director position, a move that promises to pump fuel into the growing organization.

On October 12, the GAA announced that the new executive director, Donna Rayfield, would take over the day-to-day operations of the association. This bold step will free the board of officers to lead rather than administrate. Rayfield is currently the secretary of Rayfield Tree Care, and will serve as a part-time director. Her strengths in business management, web administration, and business networking will add new depths of talent to the GAA. "We want to move the GAA from a local focus to a state and regional focus," Rayfield commented. "Right now the GAA is primarily an Atlanta organization, but it needs to pull together all tree care companies that operate in Georgia." When asked how the GAA will accomplish this, Ms. Rayfield responded, "Right now, the most value the organization can provide is professional networking, training opportunities, and business development."

As a benefit to members, GAA offers safety and technical training for tree workers, continuing education credits at their bi-monthly meetings, and social networking opportunities. The GAA also sponsors the Tree Climber's Jamboree, an annual competition for professional tree climbers held in March.

November 10, 2006

Giant Pecan Tree Still Going Strong

Mulberry Park residents and shoppers are treated daily to the grandeur of a landmark tree, a 54" diameter Pecan tree located at the entrance to the live/work community. Mulberry Park is a new multi-use development outside of Braselton, GA. The tree was saved during construction of the site in 2003 and 2004, when the new community was transformed from farmland. The tree used to be hidden next to an abandoned barn, struggling among thick undergrowth and rampant-grown swamp privet. Early in the project stages, Sivica Communities hired tree preservation expert, Jesse Milton, to join the team dedicated to saving this unique tree.

The tree was given plenty of room for its roots to remain protected. Milton worked closely with the landscape architect, Hughes Good O'Leary and Ryan, to design a drainage system under the proposed road that would assure that the Pecan didn't drown. A lightning protection system was even installed in the tree canopy.

Three and a half years later, the tree is still very much alive and thriving. The site, just 1.5 miles north of Chateau Elan, is easily recognized by the tree presence at the back of the retail area of Mulberry Park. This Pecan's 100-foot wide canopy and massive trunk provide a striking monument at the entrance to the residential areas, and serves as a testament to the benefits of teamwork during tree preservation.

November 3, 2006

Piedmont Park is Focus of Important Tree Study

The Piedmont Park Conservancy has had enough, and they aren't going to take it anymore. Last year, one of the largest trees in the fell victim to Ambrosia beetles, after an estimated 12 trees died over the past several years.

Fueled by a generous grant from The Home Depot Foundation, the Conservancy hired Bartlett Tree Experts to conduct a study of the insect at the Piedmont Park. The study concentrated on determining the population levels of the beetle and the threat it poses to the park's forest. The results of the study, which was just recently completed, has led to the development an integrated management program for control of the pests on mature and young trees in Atlanta's most important park.

On October 12, the Conservancy hosted a formal presentation of the findings of the report to concerned green industry professionals, property managers, and park supporters. Onebark Consulting Arborist is particularly interested in the findings of this report, since the arboricultural consulting firm deals with the protection and care of mature oaks on such a routine basis. Onebark hopes to analyze the findings of the study and use the information to help homeowners and communities champion their historic and high-value oaks.

There are hundreds of species of ambrosia beetle, however it is the imported beetles that are the main concern for live, apparently viable trees.

October 13, 2006

UGA Graduate Student to Study How Atlanta Land Policy Affects Tree Canopy

Elizabeth Hill, a graduate student at the University of Georgia, has initiated a broad research project that could change the way communities in north Georgia have traditionally understood how land policy affects the local environment.

The purpose of this research, which is being funded by the United States Forest Service (USFS), is to evaluate the impact of government land use policies on tree canopy coverage. The project focuses on the 28-county metropolitan Atlanta region and the respective incorporated cities. The research method will gather data from a sophisticated online survey, distributed to arborists, urban planners, decision-makers, community groups, nonprofits, and experts and agents from a variety of fields. Ms. Hill's study is unique because participants are be given the opportunity to report data both for their own community and other communities in the metropolitan Atlanta region.

For more information, contact The Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics, University of Georgia,706-542-0843.

August 7, 2006

Snake Bites Arborist

Don't get too comfortable in your Georgia back yard, because there are sometimes snakes afoot...or a-hand. A professional arborist in Atlanta was the victim of a venomous snake attack, apparently when the reptile became defensive as it was backed into corner at the base of a tree.

The incident occurred in suburban Sandy Springs, a large city just north of Atlanta. It was on a mature residential half-acre lot. The back yard was covered in ivy and blackberry bushes, which make great cover for all sorts of fauna.
The arborist was pulling thick ivy off the base of a large Tulip poplar when he was bitten. The snake sunk its teeth into the knuckle of his hand, and was able to dispense enough venom to make a nasty time of it. The arborist kept his wits about him, and was able to capture the snake and give him a complimentary ride to the hospital.

The snake was initially believed to be a rattlesnake, but after recovery, the arborist positively identified it as a copperhead. Copperhead bites are awfully painful, but rarely fatal to a healthy human. In fact, copperheads have the honor of scoring the most human bites of any eastern US snake, even more than rattlesnakes. The anti-venom for copperheads is the same as for rattlesnakes, so positive ID may be helpful but not necessary.

After his one-day stay in the hospital, the stricken arborist had this advice to give when messing around at the bottom of a tree or in ivy: "Be aware of your surroundings...and wear gloves. Not regular work gloves, but something with kevlar."

Unfortunately, the copperhead did not survive captivity.

July 28, 2006

Boomer Cherry Trees Enter Retirement

Every tree-loving Atlantan knows about the Cherry Blossom Festival. Many have even attended the annual spring event in Macon, GA. The event celebrates the seasonal flowering of Yoshino cherry trees, and has been around for 24 years attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors during its 10-day stretch.

The Yoshino cherries, though, are in trouble. Macon residents, and the Macon City forester Mike Huffman, are well aware that this species of cherry is not a long-lived tree in middle Georgia. In fact, most of the 350,000 Yoshinos (yes, that many!) throughout Macon were all planted about about 35 years ago. This means that many of the trees are in varying stages of environmentally enduced decline, succumbing to the hot, dry summers of the region.

The Cherry Blossom Festival board has asked the city to begin monitoring the cherry tree population - possibly using GPS tracking for monitoring, routine inspections, and citizen education for the care of privately owned trees. The Festival board will also continue to plant more Yoshinos to help replace the aging population, and distribute free seedlings annualy.

The city and the festival board hope to become more proactive about cherry tree management, rather than reactive.

July 4, 2006

Speedier Building Permits Promised

The Arborist Division of the Atlanta Bureau of Buildings has pledged to speed up the plan review process for certain projects. Ainsley Caldwell, the new arboricultural manager for the division, has created a "No Trees Impacted" exception for plans. Normally, all trees that have any type of impact within their critical root zone must have an impact percentage calculated and noted on the site plans. The City requires a prescription for a tree when the impact ranges between 20 and 33 percent. Apparently, the new provision will allow for a site plan to state that no trees will be impacted when the calculated percentage is less than 20%. This could help some site designers turn around their work product faster when there are no trees present on the site, or if the trees will only be minimally impacted.

The "No Trees Impacted" exception is part of Atlanta's Permitting Improvement Project initiated in April 2006. The goal of the project is to decrease the time it takes to issue a permit by 50 percent, by April 2007.

March 19, 2006

Controversial SB294 is defeated

On March 13, the Georgia Senate failed to pass a bill that had significant implications to local tree, landscape and stream buffer ordinances. Although it would not have affected the current state regulations for streambanks and buffers, it would have prevented municipalities from enacting more restrictive or protective streambank ordinances beyond the state minimum. It also would have precluded local governments from enacting or enforcing tree removal ordinances that affect individual homeowners, such as the City of Atlanta's tree ordinance.

Conservation groups and supporters of tree ordinances are likely breathing a sigh of relief.

SB294 was primarily authored by senator Chip Pearson, of Dawnsonville, and was strongly opposed by such groups as the Georgia Chapter of the Sierra Club and Athens Grow Green Coalition.

March 15, 2006

Tree Mulch Update

Here is more information regarding the safety of tree mulch products shipped from the southern US.

March 13, 2006

Big Tree Search 2006

If you know of a big tree, secretly growing in your backyard or in the corner of a neighborhood park, its time to get the word out to Atlanta. Trees Atlanta and the Arbor Day Partners are looking for the largest tree of each native species inside I-285. The Big Tree Search recognizes the trees, and publically maintains an updated list of the champions.

The 2006 search appears to have wrapped up for this year (the deadline for entries was in February), so the new winners will likely be announced soon. If you missed your chance this year, submit a nomination form for 2007.

The Big Tree Search was formerly administered by Park Pride.

March 8, 2006

Termite Scare - trees and house in danger from mulch?

An unsubstantiated warning is spreading throughout gardening and landscape circles, via a rediculous email - Mulch shipped from the Katrina areas of the US may contain the Formosan Termite and could damage your house and trees.

While the Formosan Termite is a problem in the lower latitudes of the US, it does not threaten the Atlanta area. Atlanta is too far north and we have too many cold spells to allow the termite eggs to hatch. In addition, the adults are unlikely to survive the mulch shredding process. After the shredding, mulch begins to compost automatically. Composting creates very high temperatures, in excess of 120 F, at which no remaining termite could escape!

The Houston Chronicle, and subsequently Snopes.com, have put this rumor to rest. Now what about regular termites here in Atlanta? Do they pose a threat?

No. Termites need structure. Tree mulch does not provide the structure, such as a long wood beam or railroad tie, in which to build their galleries. Mulch near your house foundation will not attract termites to your house.

February 15, 2006

There's a New Ordinance in Town

Georgia's newest city is preparing to be a haven for tree-lovers. In keeping with the precedents of Atlanta and surrounding communities, Sandy Springs, the seventh-largest city in Georgia, also has a tree ordinance.

The Sandy Springs Tree ordinance currently looks familiar - it is nearly identical to the Fulton County Tree Ordinance from which it was born. Aside from some different administrative guidelines, the ordinance is the same. But don't expect it to stay that way. On February 18, the City Council will hold a public meeting to solicit input for revisions to the ordinance.

The City has hired Michael Barnett as the City Arborist. Barnett brings a wealth of practical experience to the adminsitration and enforcement of the City's tree ordinance. He was formerly an Arborist with Fulton County (working in the Sandy Springs area), and the Director of Horticulture at Zoo Atlanta.

Sandy Springs has traditionally been a hotspot of concern for trees. Groups such as Keep Sandy Springs North Fulton Beautiful, Inc., Big Trees Forest Preserve, Inc., and even the Sierra Club are very active in matters that relate to the Sandy Springs environment.

February 14, 2006

Homeowner saves $2,275

Gwinnett County, GA -

A Lawrenceville man nearly chipped away $2,275 when his property was mis-diagnosed as having a Southern Pine Beetle infestation. Preferring to remain anonymous, the homeowner reported that a tree removal company visited his property and told him that two of his small pines died from pine beetles. The tree removal company explained that the insects were actively munching away in his live trees, and that he was on the verge of a terrible outbreak. Before hiring the tree cutter to proactively remove all 29 of his pines, the homeowner decided to check with a Consulting Arborist first for a thorough inspection and diagnosis of the problem.

Onebark, a Consulting Arborist based in Atlanta, reviewing the entire property, found no recent evidence of any Pine Beetles and gave the homeowner's landscape a clean bill of health. Apparently, the two small pines were suppressed and unhealthy, and were not part of a large scale beetle infestation. The owner was relieved at the news, and quickly asked the tree removal company not to return.