Washington and Jackson trees to stay put - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Washington and Jackson trees to stay put

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May 12, 2006

Albany-- Tree experts call it horiffic. Water, Gas and Light calls it a mistake. Recently, WG&L tree cutters pruned 32 downtown trees but they may have went a little overboard.

One expert says trees are now heavily degraded. She wants to make sure it doesn't happen again.

Originally, there was talk that oak trees along Washington and Jackson streets should be removed after Water, Gas and Light crews overtrimmed them. That could have cost tens of thousands of dollars. Albany's Tree Board chairwoman feels the trimming severely damaged the trees. WG&L says the problem will soon be replaced by growth.

Some would say if trees could talk, they would tell us age-old stories, stories about the cities they're rooted in.

"Many people in Albany are very proud of the live oaks we have in this community," says Dr. Katherine Kirkman.

Trees along Jackson Street tell a much different story today and Albany Tree Board Chair Dr. Katherine Kirkman doesn't like what they show or tell. "They are not the type of live oaks that this community wants to be proud of," says Kirkman.

She isn't proud of the way Water, Gas and Light Crews pruned the trees away from power lines. She says she received many calls and had to see it for herself. "They are very damaged to the point that some would be better off to be removed," says Kirkman.

That includes several trees along Jackson and the next street over. Also on Washington, there is a noticeable difference. When you look to the right, you can see full oak trees but when you look to the left, there's more lines than limbs. Water, Gas and Light admits it was a mistake.

"They were cut a little more severely than they could have and we admitted that," says Lorie Farkas of Water, Gas and Light. Farkas says they are sorry for the overtrimming but removing the trees completely shouldn't happen.

"That's sort of like throwing the baby out with the bathwater," says Farkas. The trees had to be trimmed to protect the lines which provides service to about 2,000 customers including Palmyra and Phoebe.

"I realize that when you have power lines and trees, they have to be pruned but there's a right way to do it," says Kirkman. The issue has tree and electrical experts on different sides of the trunk but they agree on one thing.

"They do look ugly but they will come back," says Farkas. But Kirkman says it will take some time and a little more care.

"It'll take many years and lots of pruning to make these trees look anywhere close to normal again," says Kirkman.

Lorie Farkas says WG&L along with city commissioners and the tree board agreed not to cut the trees down but Dr. Kirkman wants all utilities to sign an agreement to comply with the tree ordinance and its goal of promoting long-term care of the city's trees.

She also wants the city to hire an arborist to advise and advocate protection of the trees. WG&L has a 30 to 40 year plan to put all electrical systems underground so no tree trimming will be necessary.

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