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Days numbered for SL tree?

Krystle Wagner • Aug 28, 2017 at 10:00 AM

SPRING LAKE — The days for the large oak tree in front of Spring Lake Intermediate School might be numbered.

In a new report, an arborist with Woodland Tree Service noted that the more than 100-year-old tree is showing signs of stress and thinning. The report recommends removal given the high-traffic area and potential for injuries and damaged property, said Village Manager Chris Burns.

It’s the second time an arborist has recommended removing the tree, which was spared removal when Spring Lake Public Schools constructed a new pick-up and drop-off lanes off Hammond Street in 2015.

Earlier this month, the village’s tree board also concurred with the arborist’s report.

During their work session this month, Village Council members viewed it and opted to give the tree a root-feeding treatment. Burns said they promised to maintain the tree, and they’re working to continue to do that.

“It’s a long shot, but it’s one last attempt to save the tree,” she said.

If the treatment isn’t successful, Burns said they will re-evaluate the recommendation. The tree will be under constant evaluation as the village watches to see if the treatment is effective.

Although they’re giving the treatment time, Burns said they also don’t want the tree to continue dying and result in a personal injury or damaged property.

“We’re hyper-sensitive to that,” she said.

When the village voted to keep the tree, the school district revised its plans by shifting the traffic lanes closer to the building.

Burns said they had conversations with contractors about maintaining the tree’s root base during construction. Despite the efforts, Burns said they’re seeing what the arborist indicated would likely happen.

“This large, old red oak has endured a lot of root disturbance from recent construction,” the new report states. “This root loss has put this tree into a slow decline. It has been using up its stored reserve of energy to survive.”

Current bare branches will be trimmed along with the other village trees, Burns said.

If the tree’s health doesn’t improve, Spring Lake Public Schools Superintendent Dennis Furton said he sees the tree being removed next summer.

Furton presented the latest tree report to the district’s Board of Education during a recent meeting.

The tree is located on an easement, which is village property, so the village would pay for its removal and site restoration.

If the tree is removed, Burns said they will likely have a conversation with the community so they are aware of it.

Some of the tree’s acorns will be collected this fall and planted in hopes of growing some saplings. Burns said they also plan to work with the school district to make it an educational opportunity for students.

“It would be great if we could talk to kids about a healthy tree canopy and what it does for the community,” she said.

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