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Longview's urban canopy

Members of the City of Longview's Urban Forestry crew were busy cleaning up a major broken trunk from an elm tree near the Longview Community Church earlier this year.

Longview’s urban forest received rave reviews from a consultant.

Plan-It Geo LLC, a Colorado-based consultant, spent about six weeks this summer compiling a comprehensive list of the city’s 12,300 trees.

T.J. Wood, director of field operations, said Wednesday that Longview stood apart from the 50 other surveys the company has conducted in 17 states.

“We did notice with the Longview trees that they were consistently in better condition across the board in comparison to a lot of our other surveys,” he said. “We were impressed collectively as a crew.”

Longview has been designated a Tree City USA for 34 consecutive years thanks to its dedication to maintaining an urban forest, which makes the air cleaner, provides shade, blocks winds, increases property values and absorbs stormwater runoff. But the last time the city conducted a comprehensive survey of its trees was in 1990.

City arborist Curt Nedved said Thursday that the $68,000 survey was “absolutely” worth the investment. Now he has more exact information about which trees to remove, when to prune others and where to plant new ones.

“Honestly, it was overdue,” he said. “We needed this. It assists my management of the entire forest, so that’s going to help every tree within the city.”

In addition to helping the city, the survey results will also inform the public. Residents can peruse the species, diameter at breast height and health of every tree in the city on a computer application called Tree Plotter at https://bit.ly/2nmc6pp. (See the full report attached to the online version of this story at www.TDN.com).

The City Parks and Recreation Department will present the results of the study during the Longview City Council meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday in City Hall.

Nedved said he was “pleasantly surprised” with the results of the survey.

The study found that 62 percent of the 12,293 trees in city parks and streets are in “good” condition. About one-fourth of the trees are in “fair” condition, while 7 percent are in “excellent” and 5 percent are in “poor” condition.

Wood said most cities have more trees in “fair” condition than in “good,” which makes Longview stand out.

80 Longview trees, or about 1 percent of the total, are listed as dead or in need of removal. Wood said that is a very low percentage when compared to other surveys he has conducted.

“It’s one of the smallest, if not the smallest, percentage for trees to be removed and in poor condition. So that’s very good (for the city),” he said.

Nedved added that many of the trees flagged for removal had aesthetic, not safety, problems. They were poorly planted or slightly deformed, he said.

City crews have already uprooted the three trees that were marked for immediate removal and addressed the 11 trees designated as high risk with “imminent probability of failure,” Nedved said.

“We took care of the first two steps right away and now we are just working our way through maintenance requirements,” he said. “I’m using this (survey) for scheduling and locations where I can send my tree crew to make the biggest impact in a small area of town.”

In addition, Longview has a good mix of tree species and ages, Wood said. About 46 percent of the trees are young or small statured, which is similar to the “ideal” age distribution for an urban forest, according to the study.

However, mature and young trees are not evenly distributed on a block-by-block basis, Wood said. Streets like Washington Way and Olympia Way tend to have all mature trees while other streets have all young trees.

Ideally, there should be a mix, Wood said, but “you’re not just going to go cut down a 30-inch diameter oak to replace it with something small. It’s going to have to happen as trees near the end of their lifespan.”

Similarly, Longview’s urban forest is more diverse than other cities’, with 210 different tree species. However, many of the same species are located next to each other, Wood said. This can become a problem if one tree gets a disease or invasive pests because it will be easier to spread among the same species of trees. If the tree species are staggered, then the overall health of the urban forest is better protected.

“Moving into the future, it’s better to see more species rather than a good balance of small and large trees,” Wood said. “But if you look at younger plantings outside the main city core, they are very diverse, so I think it’s just going to be improving that moving into the future and into the city core.”

Nedved said the city is continuing to expand the diversity of the forest each year. Starting in mid-October, a three-person crew will begin planting about 300 new trees around the city.

Wood said he was impressed with the city’s urban forestry department.

“They’re doing all they can with limited resources and staff to mitigate a lot of the risk on some of those trees. They grow a lot taller (in Longview) than anywhere else. I want to give them credit for keeping up with everything.”

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