PDT Staff Writer
Portsmouth Mayor David Malone says the falling of a tree onto a playground in Tracy Park will not cause the park to close.
“Mr. (Bill) Beaumont (City Service Director) hasn’t indicated there is any danger,” Malone said. “When they clean up the tree that did fall, once that is taken care of, everything should be OK.”
Beaumont says there are probably a couple of reasons why the tree fell last week.
“Some of those reasons came up when they put the playground in,” Beaumont said.
Beaumont said there were concerns that the playground construction would cut into the roots of trees in the park, but he couldn’t speak specifically on those concerns because he was not with the service department at that time.
On Friday morning, Sept. 18, 2011, Arborist Ann Bonner of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources inspected the site, talked about some possible issues with the gravel and other items and methods to be used in the construction, then moved over to where the materials were stored.
Afterwards, then Mayor James Kalb, Kiwanis President Dr. Robin Hamm-LaValley, Incoming Kiwanis President Al Oliver and Rick Morgan expressed confidence that the project would move forward. Later that day Kalb apparently gave Kiwanis officials the go-ahead.
“We’re going to be working with (horticulturist) Ray Gibson. He’s going to oversee all of the remaining moving of dirt, and how best to protect the remaining trees or roots or anything that is in the area,” Morgan said at the time. “And we have been told that we don’t want to use any crushed limestone, because the lime actually causes damage to the roots.”
Beaumont says he now wants Bonner to inspect the trees. Bonner is going to be in town in April. The city recently appointed a tree commission and Bonner has been meeting with them and the service department to help in the development of a comprehensive tree care program for Portsmouth.
The Daily Times spoke with Bonner about what action is to be taken to make sure trees are healthy and not a threat to those using the park. Bonner said trees in public places are most functional when they are properly managed and that it is up to each property owner to best determine how to manage their trees. She said tree risk assessment and routine tree inspections require specialized skill, experience and knowledge. Bonner said inspections are best done by people with the appropriate training and experience.
Bonner said tree health and structural integrity directly correlate with the root system. A person with the appropriate training and experience can infer some things about the health of a tree’s root system by looking at the site, soil, tree vigor, root flare and tree species. Unfortunately, the root system cannot be viewed like the above-ground part of the tree.
Bonner went on to say ODNR does have programs (www.ohiodnr.com/Home/urban/UrbanForestryHome/tabid/5438/Default.aspx) that assist public entities with tree observation and evaluation and to develop a tree risk management plan that fits their capabilities and needs.
Last year, a large branch from a tree in the park came down during high winds and destroyed a merchant’s tent at Main Street Portsmouth’s farmer’s market, nearly injuring several people.
Meanwhile, the Portsmouth Kiwanis Club, which originally constructed the playground before turning it over to the city, is involved in dealing with the original builder of the playground to attempt to get it fixed so that it can be utilized by children in the area.
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 252, or at email@example.com.