Trees cut down on Summit St. downtown; Toledo plans to plant different stock in spring

12/21/2012
BY VANESSA McCRAY
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Tree stumps and sawdust remain in the median on Summit Street between Adams and Jackson streets.
Tree stumps and sawdust remain in the median on Summit Street between Adams and Jackson streets.

The city of Toledo cut down dozens of hawthorn trees planted in the Summit Street median and plans to install an irrigation system and replant the downtown stretch with new trees this spring.

Sawdust, fallen red berries, and more than 80 stumps with fresh-looking cuts remained in the median between Cherry Street and Adams Street. A cluster of trees still stood this week near the intersection of Cherry and Summit streets, but those also will be removed, city officials said.

“Anywhere from half to two-thirds of the trees ... there were dead. They just didn’t leaf out at all,” said Dennis Garvin, commissioner of the city’s Division of Parks, Recreation & Forestry.

The median, which divides traffic lanes on Summit Street, is a “harsh environment” for trees, Mr. Garvin said. Among the problems contributing to the damage were car exhaust, road salt, lack of water, and choked roots because of the confined space.

The hawthorns produce red berries in the fall and were at least 20 years old. A city crew working on overtime cut down the trees Saturday, when there is less street traffic and it is safer to do the job.

Rich Savory, an arborist and president of L.E. Savory Tree and Lawn Service Inc. in Toledo, traveled by the area occasionally and noticed “a lot of dead limbs” among the hawthorns.

“I was thinking that this summer as I was driving by ... that they were more of an eyesore than a beauty,” he said.

Properly placed and cared for, hawthorns can “live a long life,” he said.

The Summit Street site appeared overplanted, and hawthorns require pruning, he said.

The stumps likely will be removed in the early spring before an irrigation system is installed and new trees are planted, city spokesman Jen Sorgenfrei said. She did not know how much the project will cost, and she said bids would be required for the tree purchase and the irrigation work.

Hawthorns, depending on the type, can live to be 30 to 100 years old, said Bob Grese, director of Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum in Ann Arbor. Mr. Grese, who is not familiar with the specific Toledo site, said trees planted in a narrow spot might be more vulnerable to soil compaction and other factors that create a poor environment.

Hawthorns with no leaves might not be dead, depending on the cause for the leaf loss, he said, but the expense to maintain them could be more costly than replacing them. He suggested planting a variety of trees in the area and said an ironwood is among the trees that could work.

The city has not decided what kind of trees will replace the hawthorns. The city buys trees from regional growers who can provide trees from similar climates, officials said.

“We want to let the place dictate the species because of the traffic that is so close to it,” Mr. Garvin said. “We are also going to want something with color; that’s going to be very important.”

Arborist Lauren Lanphear, a past president of the International Society of Arboriculture, cautioned that the city shouldn’t expect to plant a different type of tree and get better results unless other changes are made.

Mr. Lanphear is the owner and president of Forest City Tree Protection Co., in South Euclid, Ohio. He hasn’t inspected the specific Toledo site but said hawthorns are hardy and can do well in urban areas.

“Just sticking a different tree in there may not solve the problem,” he said. Planting techniques, maintenance, irrigation, and soil conditions also should be addressed, he said.

Ms. Sorgenfrei said hawthorns planted elsewhere in the city, in parks and common areas, are “doing well” and have more room “for the roots to spread out."

Contact Vanessa McCray at: vmccray@theblade.com or 419-724-6065.