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Baltimore County Now

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Date: Apr 10, 2014

photo of damages treeSaul Passe, Arborist, Baltimore County Bureau of Highways

Wow, that was a rough winter.  I hesitate to put that in the past tense for fear that Mother Nature will throw down snow and ice just to spite me.  As an employee of the Baltimore County Highways I am no stranger to the havoc that snow and ice can do to the roads, but as the Arborist for Highways I can tell you that this winter has also taken its toll on the trees. 

Baltimore County has been recognized by the Arbor Day Foundation as a Tree City USA community.  Many of our urban streets are lined with mature canopy trees, and even more of our rural roads are up against large forests.  Winter events involving snow, and especially ice, can put these trees under extreme pressures that will exceed their normal capabilities to support themselves.  Even if a branch doesn’t reach the point of breaking off, a quarter of an inch layer of ice on any branch is enough to make it bend significantly.  Some of these branches are hanging of the road and can become a problem for motorists, not to mention the branches that do break off and fall in the road. 

Once there are branches snapped off and laying in the road, or bending into the road what is to be done with them?  If tree debris falls from a County tree (a tree in the public right-of way), County forces are responsible for removing them from either the road or the sidewalk.  The Highways Bureau will only take care of the debris that falls into a public right-of-way; anything that comes down on private property is the responsibility of the homeowner.  Any private trees that may fall into a public right-of-way will be cleared out off of the road or sidewalk, but can’t always be taken away by County forces, and remain the responsibility of the homeowner.  The bottom line is that the care of trees along public roads is a shared responsibility.  Baltimore County provides the service of keeping our roads open and free of tree debris, and the homeowner should take care of debris on private property.

As we enter spring we should keep in mind that when leaves come out they can add a lot of weight to trees.  There may be some branches that have taken a beating over the winter and may be further stressed by a “full head of hair.”  Species such as White Pine and Bradford Pear are softer woods that are susceptible to failure under extreme conditions.  So, this spring, take a few minutes to look up into the canopy and take notice of our County trees.  They are a valuable resource for the County that we can take care of together to ensure a green future for generations to come.


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