Before the leaves fall, check for trimming trees

by Dale Dalke

Special to The Free Press

Have you noticed how full and lush the trees have looked this year? Hillsboro is home to many wonderful trees, and as fall approaches, the leaves are turning pretty colors.

As you drive or walk around town I want you to take special notice of the location of the limbs, trees and leaves in relation to their surroundings. Many branches hang down into the street and sidewalk and in front of signs, blocking the line of sight for traffic. Many trees have grown up into power lines.

As trees grow, they routinely need trimming and sometimes even complete removal. The employees of the city of Hillsboro are responsible for this task if the trees have the potential to affect public safety and electrical outages.

Often times, tree trimming occurs in the colder winter months and that time is fast approaching. Our crews are taking note of which trees need to be trimmed this year and we are putting together our schedule for winter trimming.

Electrical precautions

The electric department is in a constant battle with trees encroaching on the power lines. During a storm, large branches can fall into power lines, shutting off electricity for several blocks at a time. It can take hours, or possibly days to restore electricity when this happens.

As small, wispy branches grow into the power lines, they can get zapped by the electricity and pop a fuse, thus knocking out the power. The city’s electric department regularly trims trees as a preventive for future damage rather than being reactive to a storm.

Room for equipment

The street department trims for many other reasons. Sight distance for traffic is a very important reason for us to trim regularly. Clearing low-hanging branches to increase the sight distance triangle keeps everyone safer while driving.

Larger equipment and trucks that are commonly used in construction and also by city workers need a taller vertical clearance in order to operate safely. Many of the contractors that come to Hillsboro for projects request that the trees be trimmed in advance of their arrival for the project they are working on.

Trimming saves a lot of wear and tear on the equipment being used. It’s common for windows, lights and accessories on the equipment being used to be ripped off and damaged by low hanging tree limbs, which can become costly.

Additionally, the street department is responsible for maintaining street signs. We often have to nip and prune branches to keep the signs visible. When we run the street sweeper we have to dodge a lot of branches while sweeping in order to clean the streets adequately.

The low-hanging branches do not slow down Kenny with the trash truck, but I’m sure Ed, who is riding on the back, would like them trimmed so he doesn’t get wacked in the face.

Those sanitation workers have a cruddy job and they take a lot of abuse without many “thanks” from us. We like to make their job easier, by trimming low branches if we can.

Emergency services

I’m going to guess that within our lifetime each of us is going to rely on some form of emergency services coming to our home. Did you know that the tallest fire truck in the city of Hillsboro is 13 feet, 6 inches tall? Some call that truck “Big Bertha,” and she’s a monster! Would that truck make it down your street to your driveway?

The ambulance and fire equipment are also large vehicles requiring clearance to make it down the street. We trim low-hanging branches to make their job easier when they are trying to reach your home in an emergency situation.

Not everyone lives along the school bus routes, but for those who do, it is very important that the buses have good clearance and line of sight, too. Making sure the buses can get down your street without extensive damage is an important reason to trim low-hanging branches.

Types of trees

While writing this article, I tried to refrain from mentioning my dislike against Chinese Elm and Silver Maple trees. But, I just have to say it! They are like weeds and we have much better options for trees than our ancestors did decades ago.

Please help yourself, your neighbors and the city by pulling, cutting and spraying any volunteer trees along fences, alleys and buildings. If you get them while they are small, it’s a much easier task. And, if you need assistance determining what type of tree would be suitable for your space or where to plant, please contact us and we will try and help you make those decisions.

We do take notice of the many homeowners that regularly trim their trees in the right-of-way along the street or alley. Even though the street right-of-way is designated for city use, it is to be maintained by the adjacent homeowner.

I see homeowners doing what they can from the ground and sometimes hiring a contractor to do the higher reaches with a bucket truck. Your work is seen and very appreciated. Thank you for your efforts.

Trimming for 3-5 years

The city keeps its trimming schedule focused on a “three- to five-year cut.” This means we do not want to be back at that same tree for three to five years after we’ve trimmed it.

For example, if a branch needs two feet cut off to make a street sign visible, we may cut off five or more feet to allow for future growth so the branch does not block the sign for several years to come. We may go as far as to cut the branch off at the trunk rather than leaving a short stump sticking out, to improve appearances.

In using proper pruning cuts, we prefer to cut branches at the “Y’s” of the tree so the cut will have a better chance of healing over with bark to protect the tree from rot and disease. It’s also more visually appealing.

Tree trimming is a sensitive issue. We sometimes get yelled at, frowned upon and occasionally threatened. Understandably so. Many of these trees have a long history with the homeowners and we all become very attached to them. Trees are awesome and we enjoy so many of their benefits.

The city of Hillsboro also plants many trees each year in our public spaces to help continue to beautify our community. We love trees, too! But, I hope you can understand the many reasons why we trim them each year.

So look around, notice the low branches while the leaves are still attached. Consider just how far the branches have grown since the last time they were trimmed. Do what you can, and then be considerate of the crews that will be in your area this winter, trimming trees for all the reasons we’ve mentioned.

Dale Dalke is street foreman for the city of Hillsboro.