Atlanta tree survey might help save lives one day

8:03 PM, Aug 15, 2011   |    comments
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  • City arborist Brent Beaman checks one of Atlanta's trees.
  • City Forestry crew removing huge oak tree in Northwest Atlanta

ATLANTA - Part of Atlanta's beauty is its tree-filled landscape, but that beauty can also turn dangerous and even deadly in a storm.

That is just one reason the city has now begun an inventory of its trees to help preserve them and keep them from causing harm.

About half of Atlanta's Forestry Division spent several hours cleaning up a huge oak that crashed down on Westchester Boulevard early Monday.

It took out a utility pole and some mail boxes, but, fortunately, didn't hurt anyone...this time.

During last Spring's storms, falling trees killed at least 4 people across the metro area, including two women in a sports car in Buckhead.

Such deaths are rare, but toppling trees are all too common in our green city.

Last year the city's Forestry Division had to clear more than 1,000 downed trees off a public right-of-way or on public property.

Thanks to a Federal Forestry Grant and the city's tree fund, Atlanta is spending $55,000 on a new program to take an inventory of public trees in the downtown area.

It will catalogue the type, location and condition of thousands of trees.

"If we do the inventory and we have, you know, 9,000 trees and 100 need to be pruned or removed, we have a factual number, not just a guestimate," said Project Director Ainsley Caldwell of the city's Office of Buildings.

The downtown street tree inventory will not cover trees on private property, which are the responsibility of the owner.

And just because a tree is found to be okay, that doesn't guarantee it's still not a danger.

"For example, if you have lots of rainfall, the soil becomes supersaturated and you have strong winds, a fairly healthy tree will topple over," Caldwell added.

He says the downtown tree study is just the start of what he hopes will be a complete catalogue of all of Atlanta's public trees.

Eventually he says the city would like to have them all listed online so citizens can look up a tree near them to find out what kind it is, how old it is, and what shape it's in.

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