The City of St. Augustine is in the last months of completing a $19,000 federal stimulus grant called the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The grant, The Forest Health Improvement Initiative Grant, was designed to encourage work by public non-governmental contractors. The grant was administered by the U. S. Forest Service.
The first phase of the work performed earlier this year was located on one of the most picturesque streets in the city, Magnolia Ave. The live oaks lining the street received corrective pruning and aeration and root collar excavation. Root collar excavation is digging around the ground area at the tree base to inspect the health of the root system. More than 60 live oaks were inspected, their condition determined and recorded for the future inspections.
Phase II of the grant included one live oak located on Cordova and Bridge streets and three cedar trees in the Plaza de la Constitucion. An inspection, using the same methods used on the Magnolia St. live oaks, was performed and it was determined that the trees could not be saved and were indeed a hazard to pedestrians and vehicles.
Chuck Lippi, a Board Certified Arborist, performed the testing on the trees and appeared before the Code Enforcement, Adjustments and Appeals Board (CEAAB) at their July meeting. The board hears among other agenda items, testimony from applicants who must obtain a permit to remove trees. The criteria is because of their size, diameter breast height (DBH), or in the case of the cedar trees, their species, and the cedar tree is considered a protected tree species. In this case since the trees were located on public property, the applicant was the City of St. Augustine.
The tree located on Cordova St. which was inspected last year, was determined to be dying at an accelerated rate, could not recover and was a danger to the public.
The three mature cedar trees in the Plaza showed severe decay to the trunks of the trees. The decay was so severe that Lippi could not determine their age.
The CEAAB approved removal of all the trees on the agenda since they were beyond saving. In the future, the city will replace the trees in the Plaza which have been removed.
The two local contractors who inspected and performed work on the trees were Lippi and Tree Medic Tree Surgeons, Inc., both of St. Augustine.