Update: Tom Eblen, Lexington Herald-Leader, has an excellent story on this subject in the December 2 newspaper.
The urban forest of Lexington, KY is in serious decline as a result of extremely poor management. Large amounts of taxpayer money are spent to plant and maintain trees in Lexington’s parks and on its streets, but we also pay people to destroy those trees. Trees in our parks and on our streets are repeatedly struck by large mowers and string trimmers, killing the trees or shortening their life spans. Other trees are improperly planted or piled up with mulch volcanoes. During the drought of 2012, many newly planted trees were not watered until they were past the point of recovery from wilt.
All these things are easily avoided. Instead of wasting money planting trees and then killing them, we need to spend money to train mower operators and other city personnel and contractors to take care of trees. Trees are much more valuable than grass, but we act as if only grass is important.
I spent some time this summer and fall analyzing the status of our urban forest and created a report which I submitted to Mayor Jim Gray. I am hopeful that this will result in more public and LFUCG awareness of the problems we are creating. You can find the report in multiple formats at The State of Our Urban Forest.
What do we do about this situation? In my opinion, our current tree planting program, whether on streets, in parks or on private property is a waste of money. We are paying people to plant trees and then paying people to destroy them.
We should stop spending money planting and killing trees until we can correct the problems. This will require training of LFUCG staff, being clear in contracts with mowing and landscape contractors that damaging trees will have financial consequences, and engage the public in improving the health of our urban forest. Until we do these things, we will continue to waste money.