Battelle Teams Track Street Trees for Trimming

Tree SurveyI can’t count how many times I’ve been smacked in the face by wet branches while walking through the neighborhood after a rain or shivering at the unwelcome clout of a big, fat, cold drop of water drooling off a leaf that I ducked and running down my back. It’s been on my to-do list to survey the street trees in the neighborhood and ask the city to limb them up, but until last week it has been a back-burner item. Enter Gretchen Farnung, Battelle’s Environmental Protection Manager.

About a month ago, Gretchen contacted me to say that she had a group of volunteers who were looking for a neighborhood project that would not be physically demanding—her volunteers did have to go back to work, after all. My often-postponed street-tree survey leapt to mind, and Gretchen jumped on board enthusiastically.

Armed with clipboards, pens, eight-foot-long measuring sticks, and maps of the neighborhood divided into five zones, teams fanned out on Thursday, August 7, 2014 from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. and walked every street in Harrison West. The weather couldn’t have been better for a long neighborhood stroll, and in less than five hours, the teams identified 260 street trees that need to be limbed up. And as a bonus, the teams also added “No Dumping” markers to 32 storm drains in the neighborhood. (We’ll be doing more of those in the future.)

Over the coming days and weeks, I’ll be compiling a report of street trees that need maintenance and turning that over to the city’s Urban Forestry Division. The society will be asking them to limb up the street trees as their schedule permits. We’re hoping that the improvement will make Harrison West an even more walkable and welcoming neighborhood.

How can you help?

Our survey only identified street trees—those trees planted by the city or by residents between the sidewalk and the street. It did not include trees on private property because the city cannot maintain those. You, however, can—and should—trim up any plant material that is in your yard and that extends over the sidewalk. By city code, tree canopies must be a minimum of eight feet above the sidewalk and 13 feet above the street. If you have trees with canopies lower than that, remove lower branches to clear the public right-of-way. If you have bushes or flowers that reach out over the sidewalk, cut them back so that people can pass by without getting a face full of shrub (or socks full of spiders)!

If you’re interested in participating in events like our street-tree survey that make our neighborhood a better place to live, work, and play, contact Bob Mangia at We have more events coming up this year, including a major honeysuckle abatement on August 23 from 9 a.m. until noon along the Olentangy Recreation Trail. If you ride on the trail, walk to destinations in Harrison West, or play in our parks, why not lend a hand to keep them spiffy?

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