Residents can call 859-292-3686 or email CityofNewport@Newportky.gov to contact the Newport Community Services Department with questions on any tree issue.
About Public Street & Park Trees in Newport. The City of Newport acknowledges how important trees and tree canopy is for a livable community. Trees and tree canopy is important to the City of Newport for a number of reasons, read the executive summary here.
We take seriously the stewardship of our trees and work to implement our community goal in place:
Tree Canopy Goal in Newport: The City of Newport recognizes the value of trees within the community. As such, Newport’s goal is to, at minimum, maintain the existing tree canopy cover (amount of city covered by trees when viewed from above) at the current 33%, while working to improve the quality and health of the current canopy as well as equalize the tree canopy cover between neighborhoods - all while maintaining public safety.
Efforts to Work Toward These Goals
The City has taken a number of steps to work toward the tree canopy goals described above:
Part-time Arborist on Staff. Newport now has an ISA Certified Arborist on staff on a part-time basis to provide expert assistance in the proper care, maintenance and reforesting of the City of Newport.
Building a Proactive Care Program. The City is taking steps to transition into a proactive care program for its public trees. Though a proactive care program can take time to implement properly, this is considered the best practices for care of public trees, and will reduce risk, extend the life of our trees, and in the long term will increase canopy and save the city money. Each year a small section of the public trees will be re-assessed and re-inventoried, and appropriate proactive care (primarily pruning) performed later that year.
Updates to Tree Protection. The public tree ordinance was updated in 2019 to better clarify responsibilities, utilize industry standards, and set up rules (and fines) for any damage inflicted on these important city assets. NOTE: Permission is required before ANY work (planting, pruning, etc.) can be done on any street or park tree. Fines will be incurred for failure to follow the ordinance regulations. Tree Ordinance Summary/Highlights
Incorporating Trees in New Development. The city arborist will be involved reviewing plans for development projects.
Tree Planting Support. The City will continue to work with the community on volunteer planting projects.
City Code: CHAPTER 94: TREES of the Newport Code of Ordinances was updated in 2019 based on national best practices in tree care and management. The full ordinance can be found here Chapter 94 ordinance.
Management Policies and Procedures: There are then policies and procedures in place that guide the everyday management of this important asset.
*These two pieces together build our management program.
Below is a list of the most commonly asked questions about tree management in Newport. If, after reading through this list, you still have questions, residents can call 859-292-3686 to contact the Newport Community Services Department or via email CityofNewport@Newportky.govregarding any tree issue or question.
What constitutes a public tree?
Who owns and cares for our public trees?
My street tree needs to be pruned. What do I do?
I want a street tree. How do I get one?
Is my tree OK / healthy?
Can I plant other things in a tree lawn/well?
My sidewalk is buckling because of tree roots. What are the options?
Duke tops my trees every few years. It looks awful, what can be done?
I don’t like my tree / My tree is causing problems. What can I do?
I have a tree on my own private property. Do I need permission to remove it?
A public tree is any tree located in the right-of-way (street trees) or on other public lands (city buildings, parks, etc.). These trees are managed by the City of Newport. Most street trees are located in the area between the sidewalk and the street, called a “tree lawn” or “tree well” as shown in the images below.
2. Who owns and cares for public trees in Newport?
All street trees and trees in parks are controlled and managed by the City of Newport, specifically through the Community Services Division of the city. For this reason, no cutting, removal, or other alterations or damage to a public tree or its roots is allowed without prior permission from the city. Failure to obtain permission carries fines, as defined in the City tree ordinanceChapter 94 Trees
Fines include both a 1) fine for failure to obtain prior permission ($200 per instance), and 2) compensation for the loss of that city tree/asset (assessed at $250 per inch of trunk diameter). This can add up to substantial fines for illegal damage or removal of a public tree because they are so important to the health and vibrancy of our city, and once replaced, regrowth can take decades.
Example: A 10” DBH (trunk diameter at breast height) tree removed illegally (without prior permission) would incur a $200 fine plus a compensation payment for the loss of a city asset in the amount of $2,700 ($250 x 10” diameter).
Occasionally, street trees require pruning to remove dead limbs, alleviate clearance issues for people or cars, and to keep branches from reaching nearby buildings. If you think your street tree needs to be pruned, you can contact the City CityofNewport@Newportky.gov to have the tree looked at by our contract arborist. Once the City’s contract arborist assesses the tree, a determination can be made on the hazard and safety situation.
If it is an immediate hazard or public safety issue, the City will take care of the problem in an appropriate short-term timeframe.
Option 1: Wait for the city’s zone management schedule (see below) to have City staff take care of the pruning.
Option 2: If the City is not working in that zone within the next year or two, and the adjacent property owner does not want to wait for the work to be done, they can obtain a City permit to hire a private contractor at their own expense. Two important things to note on this option:
You must acquire a permit from the City before any work is scheduled or completed. Failure to do so will result in fines.
Any contractor hired to do the work must meet the following requirements: 1) All work must be done by a certified arborist, and 2) all work must be done to current arboriculture standards cited in ANSI A300 standards (all arborists are familiar with this, though a copy can be requested from the city).
Management Schedule - a quick primer on how we care for our trees: City tree pruning is implemented based on 1) a proactive cyclical care system recommended in national best management practices in urban forestry and 2) best and most efficient use of available funding. Here’s how it works:
The City is divided into 10 management zones, shown in the map below. Each year, the trees in one zone are re-inventoried and then later each tree is proactively pruned. This proactive care system is a national standard which is proven to ensure healthier trees that last long term, as well as contribute to fewer tree failures in storms. The schedule/order of zone work follows, though is subject to changes based on available funding.
Zone 2: Completed in 2019
Zones 8 & 9: February/March 2022
In addition to this annual cyclical care work, we are also pruning for safety hazards throughout the city throughout every year.
The City of Newport is currently using its available funds for management and proactive care of our existing trees. For this reason, there is not a public tree planting program run by the City. However, there are a couple options for those interested in having a street tree in front of their property:
Option 1: Obtain City Permission and Plant One Yourself. Adjacent property owners can plant a street tree themselves, but only with prior permission from the City Arborist. This ensures the right trees are planted in the right places, ensuring longer lived trees that aren’t severely pruned by utility companies. Any tree planted without prior permission of the City is subject to removal and fines.
Option 2: Community Plantings. Additionally, the City often works with community groups that run tree planting programs. Approach your neighborhood association to see if plantings are scheduled in your area.
No matter which option, there are some parameters to ensure the right tree gets planted in the right space.
Is there enough space? To plant a street tree, there needs to be a minimum of 3-4’ of tree lawn (distance from street curb to sidewalk edge) to plant a tree. Aim to stay 5' away from water/electric lines which are marked on the curbs. Note that ADA requirements (American Disabilities Act) state that the sidewalk must be 4’ in width. The City Arborist can help determine if you have enough space for a street tree.
Which tree species to choose? There are many options that will work as street trees, and many more cultivars (variations of existing trees) that come on the market every year.
Are overhead utilities present? If there are no power lines overhead (communication lines are OK) all trees planted should be medium-large size (at maturity) trees to aid the community in growing our tree canopy to improve air and water quality and improve quality of life in Newport.
No Power Lines. If there are no power lines present, there are many many native and non-native choices of trees to plant, including (but not limited to) lindens, maples, tulip poplars, oaks, ginkgos, elms, zelkova, and more.
Under Power Lines. A tree that has a mature height of 25 feet or under, like a redbud, dogwood, Japanese tree lilac, single stem serviceberry, amur maple, etc. Any nursery can help you choose one if you tell them you are planting under utility lines.
Tree Species Prohibited:
Ash (Fraxinus species): All ash trees are currently dying off thanks to the Emerald ash borer pest.
Callery pear (Pyrus calleryana): Flowering pears have been identified now as an invasive species.
Crabapples (Malus species) and mulberries (Morus species): Fruit debris can be a nuisance on sidewalks depending on the variety.
Evergreens like pines, spruce, arborvitae, etc. are not ideal because of car and pedestrian clearance issues that are created.
Questions? Any nursery can help you choose one if you tell them whether you have overhead utility lines. Explore your options with tree nursery staff and present your choice to the City Arborist when you apply for permission to plant your tree. The City Arborist will help adjust the selection if it is deemed inappropriate for the location.
If you just got a new street tree, there are a few things you can do to give it its best chance to thrive and grow into an asset for your property and the neighborhood.
Mulch. All public trees must be mulched after planting. This is important because it insulates the soil from extreme heat and cold, keeps roots moist, keeps weeds down, improves soil as the mulch decomposes, insulates the tree against temperature extremes, prevents soil compaction and reduces mower or weed trimmer damage.
IMPORTANT: Do not pile mulch up against the trunk itself to avoid trunk rot and girdling roots. So just say no to mulch volcanoes!
Water. A new tree will need additional watering during the first 1-3 year, as it will have a difficult time dealing with the heat and drought of urban environments. Deep weekly watering in the summer months can help speed the root establishment.
Prune. Young trees benefit from a structural pruning 3-5 years after it is planted. The City Arborist will take care of this at that time (which is also why it’s important to get permission to plant a tree - otherwise we don’t know about it to help care for it!)
Learn more about new tree care here: https://www.arborday.org/trees/index-planting.cfm
If you are concerned that there is something wrong with your street tree, contact CityofNewport@Newportky.gov. Our City Arborist will check your tree and determine if any steps can be taken to address any problems.
In the City of Newport, sidewalk management and repair is the responsibility of the adjacent homeowner. The City also recognizes that there are some residents who lament the presence of urban trees, due to the potential for sidewalk damage. However, trees have been proven to be critical to our vibrant community because of the benefits in air quality, public health, and property value boost they provide. For these reasons, the City of Newport works diligently to balance the needs of the community across all these topics.
If you have a buckling sidewalk from tree roots, please note that cutting large roots to allow for sidewalk is NOT permitted, as it can reduce the stability (and thus safety) of a tree.
Consider replacing the sidewalk with a curved edge to make more room for the tree and all the benefits it provides.
If large roots are in place, the city arborist can work with your sidewalk contractor to ensure any construction will not cause the tree to become unstable (root cutting), while ensuring the sidewalk is replaced properly.
BELOW: Curved alternatives to help address sidewalk/tree conflicts.
BELOW: Example of root cuts in a sidewalk repair. This is NOT PERMITTED. This tree would be considered structurally unstable and unsafe.
Maintenance of space in the tree lawns or tree wells (space between the sidewalk and the street) beyond the tree itself is the responsibility of the adjacent property owner. Per the ordinance, plantings are allowed in this area as long as they are below 12” in height (grass, groundcover, mulch, etc.). Any plantings beyond trees in this space that is above 12” in height or that will cause trip hazards. (ie. boulders, signs) is prohibited per the ordinance. The main reason for this restriction is to ensure easy access to and from parked cars as well as ensure safety for the public.
The short answer is that tree pruning is a necessary maintenance task Duke performs to keep lines safe and power outages to our homes and businesses to a minimum. If a large tree is planted under a utility line, it must be pruned to protect the utilities and prevent local outages. This is why it is so important to plant the right tree in the right place (as described in #4). Read more about this here:
As already stated above, street trees are owned by the City and cannot be removed without a permit. The City’s overarching policy regarding tree removal is that no healthy tree is to be removed in effort to reach our goals described above. This is one of the reasons we have such heavily tree lined streets in some of our neighborhoods currently. For this reason, in most cases, permission will not be granted to remove a healthy tree as we work toward our goals stated above. We ask that you consider your request carefully and weigh the cost of removal and replacement, the time it will take to regrow (decades) and the loss of services that tree provides to the community (clean air, temperature reduction in the summer, better public health, interception of stormwater that reduces instances of flooding and water pollution and more.
That being said, the City receives requests for removal and or replacement for multiple reasons. Examples of these reasons, and the City’s policy in each case are as follows:
“My tree is damaging the sidewalk.” See FAQ #7 above.
“The roots are too high”. This was likely caused by years of over-mulching (see mulch volcanoes above) and roots cannot be cut or lowered. This is something we adjust to in city life to ensure we have trees and shade on our streets.
“The tree is touching my house.” Street trees will eventually spread and branches can reach buildings over time. Simple pruning work will remedy this issue. See FAQ #3.
“Wildlife can reach my roof.” Urban wildlife has adapted to city life and will find ways into and onto our buildings whether street trees are present or not, often utilizing utility poles and lines, private trees, and climbing the buildings themselves. Removing a healthy tree to avoid wildlife on our buildings will not deter the critters, and could encourage more intrusion if their natural homes are gone.
“I don’t like all the debris (nuts, fruit, leaves) that the street tree drops.” Trees are living things constantly evolving. Leaves, seeds, and other bits and pieces of them may drop to the ground throughout the year (and is indeed how we have forests that naturally regrow in wild areas). While debris from trees can seem to be a nuisance, the City recognizes that the greater benefits of the tree to the community often far outweigh any temporary inconvenience. The City is committed to keeping streets safe and performs regular street sweeping and leaf collection to aid in this effort.
“My street tree species is a nuisance and causing problems.”
Ash. The City is removing ash trees only as they decline. No healthy ash will be proactively removed.
Callery Pears. This species is now considered invasive, and have shown to have structural issues as they age. While the City is not proactively removing pear trees, we are willing to provide a permit for a homeowner to remove AND REPLACE a pear with a better-suited tree.
Fruiting Gingkos (females). Gingkos have been around for millions of years - even during the time of the dinosaurs! They are also somewhat unique because there is a male and female version of this tree. Nurseries only sell male trees, as the female trees produce fruit that is often proliferous and has a strong unpleasant odor once crushed on the ground.
However, there are a number of gingkos in the city that have either reverted back to females (this is possible believe it or not) or were actually female at the time of planting in error (sex can’t be determined by just looking at the tree). If you have a female Gingko that is fruiting, please contact the city to discuss options.
“My tree is dead/dying/hazardous.” A dead, dying or hazardous public tree will be removed by the City to ensure public safety. Please contact us to have the tree evaluated.
“Tree in front of my business is hiding my sign / business.” Trees in our business districts are critical to creating an inviting space to entice consumers to visit frequently. In fact, it has been shown that people will shop longer and spend 11% more in business districts with tree canopy than those without. However, the City will work with you to prune tree limbs away from a building or signage as much as possible without harming the tree.
No. Trees on your private property are yours to maintain as you choose. If you have questions about any trees on your private property, please contact a local Certified Arborist for a consultation.
Duke Energy is scheduled to prune tree branches away from overhead power lines in the East Row neighborhood starting in February and continuing through the spring of 2020. Learn more here.
Residents are invited to review this Summary and Highlights of the Tree Ordinance.
The Importance of
In cities across the country, there are many residents who lament the presence of urban trees, citing a number of problems. The most common of which are that they are messy, damage sidewalks and are sources of potential property damage from falling limbs or total tree failure. However, thanks to new technology and modeling tools, trees have now been proven as valuable city infrastructure and critical to vibrant communities because of the benefits they provide, with benefits shown to outweigh the maintenance related work associated with trees.
Urban trees have proven to be an effective tool across multiple city management areas, including planning, economic development, public health, and sanitation. They have been proven to alleviate water and air pollution, improve public health, increase property value, and enhance the success of business districts.
On an annual basis, cities often see a strong return on investment related to tree costs and benefits. A recent five-city study found that cities accrued benefits ranging from $1.50–$3.00 for every dollar invested in trees (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 2015).
Unlike man-made systems, trees are the only urban infrastructure that actually increase services and value over time. As trees mature, benefits increase exponentially, unlike more traditional city infrastructure such as roads and bridges that deteriorate with age.
The emerald ash borer (EAB) is a pest from Asia that has been killing ash trees in the US since it was found in 2002 near Detroit, MI. By 2009 it had migrated to our area (largely through sale of infested firewood). See the Figure 6 for the latest infestation map. Once infected, an ash tree can die within just 4-5 years, and often become extremely brittle and lose limbs well before death. Though treatment options do exist, they are expensive and must be reapplied regularly. To learn more about the emerald ash borer, visit: UK College of Agriculture.