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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 FAQ 4). Read more about Tree Pruning by Duke Energy (PDF).
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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 following images.
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 Ordinance - Chapter 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-inch 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 times 10-inch 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 email the City 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. Then:
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 following map. 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:
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:
No matter which option, there are some parameters to ensure the right tree gets planted in the right space:
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:
Learn more about new tree care on the Arbor Day Foundation's "Tree Planting and Care" page.
If you are concerned that there is something wrong with your street tree, email the City. 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.
The following are curved alternatives to help address sidewalk/tree conflicts.
The following is an 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 Tree Ordinance, plantings are allowed in this area as long as they are below 12 inches in height (grass, groundcover, mulch, etc.). Any plantings beyond trees in this space that is above 12 inches in height or that will cause trip hazards. (i.e. 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.
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:
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.