Selecting trees of calm
Apr 26, 2013 | 417 views | 0 0 comments | 1 1 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Peering through the living room window to find Cleveland Utilities crews, or in most cases their Asplundh tree service contractor, reshaping the crown of a prized front-yard oak or maple in order to free power lines from their reach is rarely a welcome sight to homeowners.

Yet, to borrow from a familiar adage, “It’s a dirty job, but somebody’s gotta do it.”

Visually, just watching can be a painful experience. And the end result is sometimes, though not always, even worse.

Here’s the dilemma.

Trees are beautiful and their life-giving value to the environment is unquestioned. Their vast canopies provide a comforting shade that in maturity can help to keep a residence cooler, thereby aiding in the reduction of energy bills. Their presence adds value to property and their autumn colors can bring a picturesque setting to any landscape.

That’s not the dilemma. This is.

When trees are placed improperly — such as in close proximity to existing utility power lines — their fate lies in the branches of their species. Here’s a couple of examples. The towering oaks and maples mentioned above? Absolutely gorgeous trees, especially in the fall season. But they have no future under, nor near, power lines. Within a few years, these fast-growing giants of Mother Earth will overtake the energy-gifting wires above. Once their outstretched limbs have enveloped the lines, Cleveland Utilities or Asplundh tree-trimming crews will be forced to make a visit with sharpened chains.

In a former day, verbal battles between preservers of power and nurturers of front lawns erupted regularly when the massive bucket trucks lumbered their way into scenic, residential neighborhoods. It still happens, but with less frequency, because utility companies have become more proactive in working with homeowners to share in a common cause.

Utility crews appreciate the beauty of a tree as much as anyone. But their company is held accountable for keeping the lights on, especially in times of fierce spring storms or midwinter ice or snow events whose frozen accumulation can break mighty limbs, or even entire trees. And when power lines are in their path, the lights will go out.

To help communities and homeowners better deal with the inevitable buzz of treetop chainsaws by crews who are simply doing their jobs, the Arbor Day Foundation partnered with the National Association of State Foresters to create Tree Line USA, a training program for utility companies that teaches crews — and their employers — how to better interact with homeowners and communities.

One, utilities learn proper industry standards for pruning, planting, removal and trenching or tunneling near trees.

Two, utility workers and contractors are trained in best practices for tree trimming.

Three, utilities host tree-planting initiatives that provide public education and help customers better understand proper tree planting, the importance of tree proximity to power lines and selection of species.

Four, utilities actively participate in energy conservation programs that include the encouragement of the right trees in the right spaces for lowering energy bills.

And five, utilities sponsor or participate in Arbor Day events with their community.

Cleveland Utilities is an active member of Tree Line USA, and works closely with Asplundh to assure crews understand the program’s expectations and standards. Recently, CU was awarded Tree Line USA status for the 13th consecutive year.

Even through the use of Tree Line USA standards, CU and Asplundh won’t always leave happy homeowners standing in the shade of their visit.

But that’s the point.

Today’s anger could have been avoided by yesterday’s choices. When planting new trees anywhere near power lines, size matters.

If in doubt about tree species and their eventual mass in relation to overhead utility wires, contact Cleveland Utilities or Asplundh before planting. They can offer professional advice that is driven by the standards of those who know best; that is, the tree people — the Arbor Day Foundation and the state foresters.

Tree Line USA is a valued resource. We applaud Cleveland Utilities for committing to it.

We urge homeowners to seek CU’s knowledge in making the right choices. Such partnerships will assure a greater shade of calm in years to come.