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Trees grow on the College Green in Athens, Ohio on September 24, 2019.

Athens Shade Tree Commission works to promote the urban forest

The Athens’ Shade Tree Commission is a body that advises the city on the planting, pruning and removal of trees in public spaces and right-of-way areas in Athens. 

Right-of-ways are pieces of property off roadways that the city maintains, said Ron Lucas, deputy service safety director in Athens. 

The Shade Tree Commission works to promote the “urban forest” in Athens, which can be defined as the forest within the city limits, Shade Tree Commission Chair David Ingram said. However, most of it is on private grounds, which the Shade Tree Commission is not involved with.  

The appointed commission is made up of volunteer residents. Lucas serves as a liaison between the city staff and Shade Tree Commission, he said.  

Common complaints Lucas receives are in regard to limbs falling, a tree being dead and tree removal, he said.

Sometimes, residents will also ask for trees to be planted, which requires city permission. 

“Lots of times the city will fund it,” Lucas said. “We have a certain amount of money we use each year to plant trees.”  

The city tries to plant new trees every year, Lucas said. Specifically, it tries to plant 10 to 15 each year, sometimes planting more or less. 

“I try to plant at least one more tree than I cut down,” Lucas said.

Removal of trees is dependent on several factors, including when they were planted and what type of species they are, Lucas said. Some years of tree removal are busier than others due to such factors. 

Every fall typically consists of the Fall Planting Project, which involves identifying spots where trees may have died and replacing them in the same spot, or finding other places. Trees have not yet been planted for this fall, Lucas said. 

“We often ask the Shade Tree Commission for advice or opportunities … and they help us out,” Lucas said. 

A list of trees for the landscape ordinance is available on the city of Athens website. The list consists of three different groups of trees organized by size. The list is a comprehensive one of trees that will grow in the area. Permitted trees are not necessarily native to Ohio or Appalachia, Ingram said.  

Trees that are excluded from the list would be those such as the Silver Maple that tend to drop limbs without warning or those that are invasive, Ingram said.  

“We are the Shade Tree Commission; we really have got people who want to make sure that we get shade from these trees,” Ingram said. “And so, we will promote the largest trees we can.”

Small, medium and large species are seen on the comprehensive list. 

When it comes to College Green, almost all of the trees are native species, Landscape Coordinator Susan Calhoun said. 

“There are only a handful of non-native such as Norway Spruce and European Beech which both come from Europe,” Calhoun said in an email. “We have more Oaks than any other species of tree on the College Green. The species of Oak include Pin, Red, White and Burr.”

Ultimately, when it comes to the urban forest, Lucas said there’s a lot of pride in Athens’ tree canopy.

“There’s a genuine compassion or desire for a strong urban canopy in the city of Athens so we don’t have much of a challenge having our community support our tree planting efforts,” Lucas said. 


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