PARADISE PARK TREES EVALUATED

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Thomasville’s public parks and greenspaces have received much attention throughout 2016, and City leaders say this focus on a strategic initiative to improve its community’s greenspaces will continue in 2017. For Paradise Park, 2017 will bring a community planning initiative to shape the park’s future. The groundwork for these improvements has begun with a tree survey that yielded surprising results.

“In October, we worked with an arborist certified by the International Society of Arboriculture to conduct a survey of 815 trees that are located in Paradise Park,” Jerry Pionessa, Assistant City Manager/City Engineer. “This park is very popular with our community and we have a great deal of pedestrian traffic here, so the survey was conducted to make sure that the trees do not pose any threats to public safety.”

Certified Arborist Jerry Holcomb prepared a detailed report that outlined a maintenance and removal schedule based on the overall condition of the trees and their risk for failure. The report was shared with the Thomasville Tree and Landscape Committee during an onsite meeting held at Paradise Park in November. While the vast majority of trees are healthy and require no maintenance, some trees were identified as needing immediate maintenance and/or removal.

“Trees that were identified for immediate removal are those that are considered hazardous and could pose a risk to park users,” said Pionessa. “The Tree and Landscape Committee then made the decision to remove the initial 14 trees that were identified by Mr. Holcomb for immediate removal,” said Pionessa.

“These initial trees that are scheduled for removal have heavy areas of decay, which could be hazardous with or without severe weather conditions,” said Mike Atkinson, Public Works Director. “This means that these trees are at risk for falling and/or losing very large limbs that could be dangerous to pedestrians or park users.”

Recently, a large tree in a public park in California fell on a wedding party posing for photos, killing one person and injuring several others. “We certainly don’t want something like this to occur in Thomasville, which is why we brought in the arborist to help us evaluate the health and condition of the trees in Paradise Park, said Pionessa.”

Once the trees that pose the greatest risk to public safety are removed, maintenance will occur on about 270 additional trees to prune and correct structural problems.

“Most of the maintenance will involve general pruning to remove hazardous deadwood or broken branches,” said Atkinson. “By addressing some of this maintenance now, these trees should be better able to thrive and grow in Paradise Park for many years.”

Some of the maintenance will also involve eliminating crowding around the trees, which impact the long term growth structure of the trees. The trees requiring maintenance and/or removal have been assigned priority numbers that will span over two years.

“Scheduling maintenance and tree removals by priority over two years allows us to stagger pruning and removals so that the impact to the aesthetics of the park is lessened,” said Atkinson. “While we will initially begin with removing the 14 trees identified with having the greatest risk, there are other trees that are dead or dying that will also be removed over the course of the next two years.”

In total, 477 trees were deemed healthy and do not require any maintenance or work. Aside from the initial 14 identified for immediate removal, an additional 53 trees were also recommended for removal. City officials stress that removals will not occur immediately for these trees and will instead be staggered over the next two years.

According to Pionessa, the detailed report will also assist in future planning for Paradise Park.

“As we continue with the Community Trail, we can use the report from Mr. Holcomb to help us better plan the route and how it will intersect with Paradise Park,” he said. “We can plan the trail’s route to avoid those trees that are in the best health and instead use the space that is created through unhealthy tree removal for the Community Trail and other park improvements.”

Removal of the trees identified as posing the highest risk are scheduled to be removed beginning mid-late January. Maintenance scheduled for this year is anticipated to be completed by the fall, just in time for the master planning charrette scheduled for Paradise Park.