You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 5:58 a.m.

Trouble in Tree Town: Ann Arbor has backlog of 1,400 dead and dying trees on removal list

By Ryan J. Stanton


A leafless tree in the Virginia Park neighborhood on Ann Arbor's west side reaches into the sky on a recent afternoon. The city has a backlog of roughly 1,400 dead and dying trees on a removal list right now.

Ryan J. Stanton |

Ann Arbor might be affectionately called Tree Town, but many residents and city officials agree the city has fallen behind on taking care of its dense green canopy.

The city's forestry department has been cut back over the years as budgets have tightened, and it's been years since the city proactively trimmed trees that line city streets.

Hundreds of dead and dying trees — their branches absent leaves even in the summertime — can be found along streets in neighborhoods throughout Ann Arbor.

"It's pretty much an epidemic," said Nick Sochacki, who lives near Virginia Park on Ann Arbor's west side and has noticed a large number of dead and dying maple trees.


Nick Sochacki, who lives near Virginia Park on Ann Arbor's west side, stands near a dying tree in front of his house. He said limbs from the tree have fallen and damaged cars on multiple occasions.

Ryan J. Stanton |

There's a backlog of roughly 1,400 street trees that are on the city's removal list right now, said Kerry Gray, the city's urban forestry and natural resource planner.

"We're trying to get a better handle on that," she said. "There's definitely more work to be done than we have the staff resources to accomplish."

Gray said about 800 of the trees on the removal list are considered lower priority because they're smaller or were planted in recent years, but many others are decades old and tower above neighborhood streets and sidewalks.

Sochacki said it seems the city marks some of the same dead trees year after year and doesn't follow through with removing them. He considers it a dangerous situation.

"There are so many of these trees that are dropping branches all over," he said, noting limbs from a dying tree in front of his house have fallen and damaged cars.

The city's removal list includes more than 3 percent of the 41,000 street trees the city manages. The city also manages about 6,600 park trees and tens of thousands of trees in natural areas.

Gray said the city is losing about 1 percent of its street tree population each year — or roughly 400 to 500 trees per year. She said the city has been able to remove about 500 trees each of the last couple years, and that's the plan this year as well, so the backlog isn't going away soon.

Multiple storms this year have caused hundreds of weak and dead limbs to break free from trees the city is responsible for maintaining.

In some cases, branches have fallen and damaged cars parked on city streets. And more recently, a 61-year-old woman was hospitalized with a mild concussion and a knee injury after dodging a falling tree branch on Glendale Drive in the Virginia Park neighborhood.

A man who lives on the block said the tree had been dead for some time and was reported to the city about two months before the July 9 incident.

Gray confirmed the tree was reported at the end of April and was evaluated two weeks later. The tree was marked for removal then, she said, but it wasn't deemed an immediate hazard. The city finally had the tree reduced to a stump within a day or two after the woman was injured.


Once the city has determined a tree needs to be removed, it often will be marked with a large green dot. The city is trying to get newly dotted trees removed within three months, but there are trees with dots from years past that remain standing.

Ryan J. Stanton |

The city tries to get out to evaluate trees reported by residents within two weeks, Gray said, but that depends on the workload.

Once the city has determined a tree needs to be removed, it often will be marked with a large green dot. The city is trying to get newly dotted trees removed within three months, Gray said, but there are dead trees with dots from years past that remain standing.

City Council Member Mike Anglin, D-5th Ward, said dead and dying trees are a big concern for him, and he alerts city staff when he sees them.

"It is an emergency," he said. "I think the community expects the trees to be better taken care of — period."

Council Member Stephen Kunselman, D-3rd Ward, said he has noticed a number of dead and dying trees as he's been out campaigning this summer.

"There's a need for the city's forestry department to step up a little bit," he said. "As a former intern of the city forestry department, it's very sad to see how it has been cut."

Matt Warba, the city's field operations manager, said the city had 15 full-time forestry employees in 1999 and now it has 10. Park operations went from 25 to 10 FTEs in that same time.

"Currently we have three people who are very well suited and capable of doing large tree removal or whatever tree issues come up," Warba said, adding the city also relies on the help of field operations technicians, temporary employees and private contractors to carry the workload.

Gray said the forestry department's budget amounts to about $1.8 million this year, which is down slightly from last year.

John Bassett, a retired University of Michigan forestry professor, said he's been in Ann Arbor since 1967 and he remembers when the forestry department was much more robust.

"I think what the forestry department has lost is a lot of experience and bodies, so they simply don't have the personnel to do all the work," he said.


Council Member Stephen Kunselman, D-3rd Ward, said he has noticed a number of dead and dying trees as he's been out campaigning this summer. Here he snaps a photo of one so he can report it to city staff.

Ryan J. Stanton |

Bassett said the city could be a lot more proactive about trimming trees and preventing rotten limbs from posing risks.

"If they had adequate money and personnel, you'd have people out there looking at these things and getting to them more quickly," he said. "Sometimes it's difficult to tell if a limb has internal rot. I just don't think they've got the personnel to spend the time checking."

The city acknowledges its forestry program is best described as reactive these days, with field activities driven by citizen service requests and emergencies. And city officials know having a reactive program can negatively impact the overall condition and sustainability of the urban forest.

Gray said there always are gong to be challenges when managing as many trees as the city does, but the invasion of the emerald ash borer in recent years really set the city back. She said basic maintenance was deferred while the city tackled the removal of thousands of ash trees.

The city still is working to make up for that loss, planting thousands of new street trees. The city recently signed a $509,125 contract with Margolis Companies Inc. to have another 1,750 trees planted along city streets over the next two years.


The city of Ann Arbor has ramped up tree plantings after losing thousands of ash trees to the emerald ash borer, a green beetle native to Asia that invaded the region a number of years ago.

City of Ann Arbor

The city also has been working for more than three years on developing an Urban Forest Management Plan to provide a framework for effective management of city trees. A 22-page draft report containing several recommendations is now available on the city's website.

The first recommendation is to implement a proactive tree maintenance program, emphasizing routine pruning, removals and care to improve the health and sustainability of the canopy.

The plan states current funds don't support all of the work that needs to be completed and the maintenance backlog increases every year.

It notes more trees are added to the priority prune list each year than the city is able to prune, and that's causing a gradual decline in the quality and condition of the city's tree canopy.

The plan, which recommends more funding to support increased forestry services, is expected go to the City Council in January after being reviewed by various city commissions.

Mayor John Hieftje agreed the city needs to start putting more resources into forestry and do a better job of both routine trimming and removal of dead and dying trees.

"I'll be pushing for that and discussing it closely with staff," he said. "Because it seems to me that we don't have the handle on it that we should."


New trees are being planted throughout the city by the hundreds. City officials say the mortality rate for new trees is about 5-10 percent, though mortality last year was closer to 10 percent with the drought. The city's contractors are required to water the trees as part of the contract.

Ryan J. Stanton |

Gray, who came to the city in 2008, said 2004 was the last year city trees were on a routine, 10-year pruning cycle, and then the city got sidetracked with the emerald ash borer.

Routine pruning makes trees less prone to storm damage, which city officials believe will be important with future forecasts anticipating increased frequency and intensity of storms.

The city estimates its trees provide millions of dollars worth of benefits each year, helping to manage stormwater, improve air and water quality, lower energy costs and increase property values.

Two years ago, the city reallocated expenses for street tree operations to the city's stormwater utility fund, which freed up room in the city's general fund. That was partly a recognition that the city's publicly managed trees intercept an estimated 65 million gallons of stormwater each year.

Sue Perry, who lives near Virginia Park and helped organize the Ann Arbor Tree Conservancy about four years ago, said she can't help but think if the city still cared for trees like it used to before budget cutbacks, it wouldn't have so many dead and dying trees to worry about.

She called it "shameful" that Ann Arbor still touts its Tree City USA designation, which it first earned 32 years ago. Cities earn the designation from the Arbor Day Foundation for sound urban forestry management, and Perry doesn't think Ann Arbor can claim that anymore.

"We used to have a real forestry department with longtime people who practically knew every tree in this city, and they did preventative maintenance," she said. "Everything is done on a crisis basis now and they can't even get to the trees that are marked for removal."

Ann Arbor residents with concerns about a city-managed tree are encouraged to contact the forestry department at 734-794-6364 or submit an online service request.


The city plans to plant 750 new street trees in the following areas starting this fall and continuing in the spring. Another 1,000 trees are being planted in fiscal year 2014-15. The project also includes the removal of 100 dead/dying city street trees and their resulting stumps. Download the plan.

City of Ann Arbor

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's email newsletters.



Mon, Jul 29, 2013 : 11:46 p.m.

Oh. Almost forgot. We have PUBLIC ART here! (to keep out the riffraff.) *joke font* Let the voting down begin!!!


Mon, Jul 29, 2013 : 11:43 p.m.

Tree Town is now in Dexter. But don't move here, please. We have a nice, pleasant town full of friendly people, with beautiful parks. A village full of very happy people.


Mon, Jul 29, 2013 : 6:21 p.m.

I inadvertently sent my post without finishing. If the City of Ann Arbor plans on spending $509,125 on planting 1750 trees in the next two years, it is spending $290.93 per tree. Ann Arbor Rotary has been planting trees for many years and in 2012 (the last date I could find information) the club planted over 1300 trees, mulching, watering, and pruning them as well. If the cost to the City is $290. 93 per tree, Rotary saved the city approximately $280,000 in 2012 and is still planting trees. I hope that the City got competitive bids as almost $300 a tree seems awfully expensive.


Mon, Jul 29, 2013 : 8:55 p.m.

You are almost $100,000.00 shy of the savings that the rotary club saved in 2012 as 1300 times the $290.93 comes to 378,209.00 As I stated in an earlier post the planting of trees at a cost of $509,125 is over 28% of the forestry budget. The city than says that it will try to remove 400 trees annually, which only keeps up with the annual death of the trees, meaning that there will always be 1400 trees dead or dying. It seems that tree removal should not average over $400.00 per tree or $160,000.00 I have seen the way that the city removes trees at a rate of 1 a day , 5 people 3 to 4 pieces of heavy equipment, 3 chain saws. The heavy equipment is constantly running, burning fuel even during said lunch breaks. The price of removal with city employs nearly triples private sector quotes. When it is done, the tax payers don't have to pay the pensions.


Mon, Jul 29, 2013 : 5:57 p.m.

If the City is spending $509,125 on 1750 trees to be planted over a two year period, that is $290, 93 per tree!! It makes me realize even more what a service Ann Arbor Rotary does for the city by planting trees in parks in the Fall of each year. My estimate is that Rotary plants between 150 and 200 trees during that period, which

E. Daniel Ayres

Mon, Jul 29, 2013 : 5:36 p.m.

This whole discussion is a microcosm of our current political insanity. Preservation and restoration of trees are essential ingredients of a sustainable community. Almost everyone here seems to be "picking nitts." Very few are focused on the big picture with respect to trees. Understory shade reduces temperatures from 10 to 20 degrees in summer and in winter the bare stems and limbs have a tendency to actually raise temperatures by absorbing and radiating heat from sunlight. We need all the help we can get mitigating the impacts of our emissions and trees do a fairly important job in that respect. Unfortunately, like everything else of critical importance to human survival, we would rather bicker over private interests instead of recognizing the fact that we are all facing the same grim future.


Mon, Jul 29, 2013 : 7:59 p.m.

And the insanity started over 30 or so years ago by a group of wealthy conservatives wanting less government and less taxes. To do this, they brought in economist David Stockman who pushed the "starve the beast" economic policy. By cutting taxes, we would then have to cut government because of the lack of funds. Of course, this didn't work nationally because we could borrow money, but it did work in states who during this time passed balanced budget amendments that precluded borrowing when times were tough. The lower one gets in government the harder the realities of smaller government, no money are. So now we bicker about funding for trees and blame the mayor and his cronies because they laid off all the Arborists years ago because there was no money to pay them.


Mon, Jul 29, 2013 : 5:28 p.m.

Why plant new trees when the city can not remove the dead and dying trees. I think the dead and dying trees should be removed before planting new trees.

Great Lakes Lady

Mon, Jul 29, 2013 : 3:29 p.m.

Wouldn't the priority be to get rid of dead trees first; "safety first".....and then work on planting more trees after the dead trees are removed? How about Forestry Dept interns helping the city??


Mon, Jul 29, 2013 : 3:11 p.m.

Where does the Dean Fund come into this discussion? "In 1964, Elizabeth Dean willed nearly two-million dollars to "be held in a separate fund by the City of Ann Arbor and the income thereof to be used to repair, maintain and replace trees on City property." Only the annual interest income generated by the Dean Trust is utilized, to provide perpetual tree service benefits to the Ann Arbor community." I would hazard to guess that most cities do not have a endowed fund for trees, such as Ann Arbor has with the Dean Fund. Ann Arbor should use that to its full advantage, such as repair and maintenance of the city's trees.

E. Daniel Ayres

Mon, Jul 29, 2013 : 5:27 p.m.

I'm not from Ann Arbor, but I suspect that the interest from this fund is a relatively tiny fraction of the budget required for a sustainable tree policy. This problem is only going to get worse unless and until people realize we are fighting WW III, the war to save the planet. Trees will be an essential mitigation strategy, but their selection for survival against coming weather extremes is problematic to say the least.


Mon, Jul 29, 2013 : 1:54 p.m.

Our easement had Elm trees.. city removed them. Then they planted Ash trees,... again removed by the city. I guess we are on the list for new trees or did they give up? Its been years.

Vivienne Armentrout

Mon, Jul 29, 2013 : 1:32 a.m.

When I moved here in the 1980s, we had a separate Forestry Department staffed by professional arborists. If you had a problem with your street tree, a call brought a city staffer out to take care of the problem. As other commenters have said, we are suffering from the Roger Fraser cutbacks. He celebrated cutting down city staff by about 50%. This is one consequence.

Great Lakes Lady

Mon, Jul 29, 2013 : 3:32 p.m.

He cut staff in order to fund his and his friends "golden parachute" retirement program.

Roger Kuhlman

Mon, Jul 29, 2013 : 3:26 p.m.

Maybe if Roger Fraser had not cut city staff by 50%(?), the city of Ann Arbor would have become bankrupt like Detroit now is. Just a thought.


Mon, Jul 29, 2013 : 1:23 a.m.

We have hundreds of thousands of tax dollars marked for the arts and programs like this aren't funded? Mayor, once more priorities of you and your buddies are wacked.

Nicholas Urfe

Mon, Jul 29, 2013 : 1:19 a.m.

It is treesonous!

Linda Peck

Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 11:21 p.m.

The money cannot go everywhere at once, and we know where it is going presently, on art that many people don't want, and on consultants. Trees are basic, roads are basic, police and fire protection are basic. Our town may be ruined by a very cavalier attitude exemplified in "there is only one watering truck."


Mon, Jul 29, 2013 : 8:21 a.m.

Ann Arbor apathy leaves our city leaders in power.

Jay Thomas

Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 9:49 p.m.

Typical. But Mayor Highrise wants to spend our money on anything but the basics (now it's the buskers that have captured his imagination).


Mon, Jul 29, 2013 : 8:22 a.m.

As evident by election results, he gets away with it, eh!?

Pamela Gesund

Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 9:27 p.m.

It's Verticillium Wilt, a serious disease. I contacted the Ann Arbor News last summer after I called the agricultural department at Michigan State to discuss the tree situation. I was told that the symptoms sounded like Verticillium Wilt - an untreatable disease of which maple trees (among others) are susceptible . I sent photos to the Ann Arbor news and reported what I learned about the disease. An article was written about it, however the focus was more on the drought than this disease that is killing our trees. Verticillium wilt is caused by the soil-borne fungi. Because of its ability to spread internally or systemically within the plant and to kill the plant, Verticillium wilt is considered a serious disease. There is no way to cure the trees. Unfortunately, we will lose all our maples. I have 4 huge maples (decades old) in front of my apartment, and it looks like they will be dead by next year. Just 3 years ago they were beautiful.


Mon, Jul 29, 2013 : 7:38 p.m.

I have noticed for a while that many newly planted Maples died within a few years. It makes sense because the Verticillium fungi stays in the ground after a tree dies and it then infects the next planted tree, also. The city needs to replant with a resistant species to stop the cycle.


Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 11:01 p.m.

Uh...what are you talking about ?


Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 9 p.m.

The same low maintenance syndrome seems to be prevalent on most county/state roads as well--- overgrown trees and shrubs blocking vision-- dead trees-- long grass along roads--- pot holes- washboard dirt roads. Perhaps' it is all a reflection of what is happening to the American family; bills are going up but the revenue is staying stagnate.


Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 7:50 p.m.

How about if we all take care of the city trees that are planted on our out lawns. I too cannot believe that people don't trim these trees or water them. Sure, I would call the city if it was something I could not reach. When I walk the neighborhood after a rain I feel like taking my trimmers with me. Don't people notice the low hanging limbs over sidewalks. On another note, has anyone ever watched the city workers take down a tree? One guy is doing the cutting and 5 others are standing around talking. If you have 10 guys out there they should be able to take down 8-10 trees a day.


Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 11:44 p.m.

I do not believe laziness is endemic to unions alone, just look at all the comment posters here: one person talking about some real solutions and 5 others just standing around complaining.

Jay Thomas

Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 9:51 p.m.

"One guy is doing the cutting and 5 others are standing around talking." Nothing new there. Thanks unions!

Charles Curtis

Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 7:27 p.m.

The city ought to take care of what they have before adding anything new...across the board of items the city likes to talk about. Remove dead trees before doing massive replacements. Perhaps ask homeowners if they could water a new tree if it were planted on their easement before planting one and if homeowner cant be bothered, plant with those that can. Put in the root deflectors next to sidewalks, so trees stop buckling sidewalks. Tree trimming does remove lots of problems later on. Good branch development prevents many problems later by making trees stronger in how they grow. Trees that dont snap in windstorm, and dont have dead branches stuck in them for years, dont have rot issues and dont attract bugs that can kill the trees. Prevention goes a long way. And trimming trees is not a major job if it were to be done continuously and not put off for another yr. More thought in using proper trees would help too. Variety prevents the massive tree loss when a new disease or bug shows up.

Charles Curtis

Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 7:30 p.m.

And maybe the city could allow residents to prune their own trees and not threaten them...if you do prune a tree in easement, the city gets all uppity and threatens to fine you or worse.

pooh bear

Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 6 p.m.

this is the direct result of the slash-and-burn policies of the previous City Administrator. With an almost 50% cut in staff and the ash borer problem to deal with, no wonder trees have suffered. I too have complained about things but I realize it is an impossible situation for the Forestry Department. Let's beef up the staff again to levels that can manage our wonderful forest canopy.


Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 5:49 p.m.

I paid private contractors $150. last year to take away all the dead tree branches that neighbors collected out of Postman's Rest Park and from City property after storms in summer 2012. I paid a private tree company over $550 bucks to trim a tree on our property but I could not get them to trim back a city tree to where it was needed, only the part of the tree that extended over our property.The company's forester said they "... aren't' allowed to trim city trees" even if I paid for it. If I stand at corner of our lot, I see 3 dead trees, one extremely large. Much larger than the shrub Mr. Kunstleman is photographing. I also just paid almost $8000. in property taxes last week. Can we please stop planting trees and see if the contract with Margolis can be used for cutting down this backlog first. Margolis has done nice work on private property in our area. Thank you for a very comprehensive article.


Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 5:11 p.m.

Why not help out by watering your street tree and if you can, do a little pruning, especially if hangs low over the sidewalk.


Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 11:51 p.m.

The city is oblivious and will never notice. Are they counting branches or something? Prove it didn't drop in a storm. If you prune it yourself, it could be indirectly considered an "act of God", for those religious folks out there who believe they are of Gods creation.

glenn thompson

Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 8:10 p.m.

That is illegal without written approval from the City


Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 4:46 p.m.

"New trees are being planted throughout the city by the hundreds. City officials say the mortality rate for new trees is about 5-10 percent, though mortality last year was closer to 10 percent with the drought. The city's contractors are required to water the trees as part of the contract." It seems that the contractors are responsible for the trees that are planted, at least for a period of time. Are they being held accountable for the mortality rate? I Agree that trees are a very important part of Ann Arbor as well as any other city or municipality. But the issue I see here for Ann Arbor is much different. There is a safety issue involving the current standing trees on the public streets. These trees seem to be a hazard in the area and these hazards are being neglected. Would it not be better to correct the hazards that exists today before planting new trees? It seems that 28% of the budget is for planting new trees. It does not say what the budget is for removal of dangerous trees. Is the city responsible for the damage that these trees cause? Would these damages come out of the forestry funds causing more shortages?


Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 4:41 p.m.

hey'll survive.cut the dead trees down and get on with life. CRAP HAPPENS


Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 4:31 p.m.

This is just another example of the city services that we receive for our tax money, if we want better service we have to be willing to pay higher taxes. Perhaps there is a voluntary fund that concerned citizens could contribute to?

Sam S Smith

Mon, Jul 29, 2013 : 1:14 a.m.

We are already paying higher taxes but the question is: For what?


Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 4:17 p.m.

Scrap the public "art" program and fix the roads/trees!!!


Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 4:04 p.m.

What really blows me away is that the AAPD still doesn't know who's killing these trees! Argggh! What do we pay them for? Meanwhile, the killer's on the loose, and 3 percent of our trees are already dead.


Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 3:34 p.m.

Ann Arbor should quit spending money on sculpyures and take care of trees that made A2 such a great place@@@


Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 3:31 p.m.

Question for the legal-minded folks out there - If the city is notified of a dead/sick tree that is their responsibility to maintain, and it is not removed or trimmed within a reasonable time (a year, two, three?) and then a fallen limb causes damage to personal property or personal injury, could the city be found legally liable? If so, what could the costs be if injury is severe and the city is sued for willful negligence (or whatever legal charge would be appropriate here). What would the cost of suitable preemptive maintenance be in comparison? Seems one of the city leaders' first priorities should be to appraise and protect from liability, and if they could be sued for damages in a case like this it sure doesn't seem they're doing a very good job. Might have to dip in to the rainy day fund, but it sounds like if they hired a company like Davey's or Greenstreet to come in and do a massive clearing over one summer, the current staff would be able to stay on top of maintenance once the existing backlog was cleared. Also seems like the cost of such a contract would be pennies on the dollar compared to cost of a potential lawsuit in case of injury or death.


Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 4:04 p.m.

The priority of the city leaders is spending money on art.


Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 3:28 p.m.

My particular tree concern isn't mentioned here, and I'd love to see it addressed some day with Ryan's usual thoroughness. My understanding is that the trees being planted by the city are much smaller species than those they replace. Further, my understanding is that the larger species will still thrive in those curb extension spots (as should be obvious) but that the city deems flat sidewalks with longer replacement life to be more important than a big, high tree canopy. I'd love to know if this is true and whether people think it was the best way to go.

Roger Kuhlman

Mon, Jul 29, 2013 : 3:16 p.m.

I hope everybody realizes that the sidewalk extension area is a terrible place to grow trees. That you are going to have a lot of problems with trees there is to be expected.


Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 8:55 p.m.

" My understanding is that the trees being planted by the city are much smaller species than those they replace." I doubt this is the case. The city is planting a wider variety of species than was done in past decades, so that we don't get more tree massacres as has happened with the ash borer beetle and in the past with Dutch elm disease. The variety of trees does include some smaller species, but it still also includes potentially tall ones like oaks. They discourage planting of maples, again for diversity, because currently maples are the most common street tree in the city. You can find a list of the approved tree species here, on the city's tree planting page:

Jim Osborn

Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 4:58 p.m.

I've noticed that, too. When a tree uproots a sidewalk, instead of cutting the roots, raise up a new section of sidewalk so the roots now go under the sidewalk. Cutting the roots harms the treea dn the tree will re-grow the roots and do the damage again.

peg dash fab

Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 3:24 p.m.

I take care of the two city-owned trees on my property. I am amazed at the number and volume of people who sit back and watch city-owned trees on their property languish and die, and then complain that it is the city's fault, or blame the mayor, or rail about art!

Steve Hendel

Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 7:15 p.m.

Please enlighten me someone; how can a City-owned tree be on someone's (private) property?


Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 5:31 p.m.

I would think that most residents take care of the city owned trees on their property or on the right of way (water and minor trimming ). This should not include expensive trimming of these trees. many trees placed on the easements have become diseased should not be the homeowners responsibility to hire a company to remove at a cost of $800.00 per tree.


Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 4:19 p.m.

Good for you Peg, you step up and do what needs to be done. the city could take a lesson from you! as could your neighbors.


Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 3:15 p.m.

In days gone by, homeowners did not put tree maintenance responsibility on the City. They watered, trimmed and raked leaves themselves. Now you have a mindset that city government should take care of trees, feed your children and maybe wipe your butt is next. Because tree roots get into your leaking storm drains and sewer pipes, owner's addiction to toilet cleaners (copper sulfate, etc.) tree root eliminators and other poisons (prescription drugs, solvents, and soaps) have been killing your trees. Now you have to pay the piper, artist or arborist. What did you expect? Thoughtless, clueless people who's reputation preceeds them.


Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 3:02 p.m.

How soon we forget. The dead trees not being removed is the direct result of Roger Fraser's gutting of city departments during his reign of terror. "Reorganized" departments got rid of many experienced and knowledgeable employees not so much to reduce head count but to bust the unions. So, all the union and public employee haters, the ones who complain about the incompetent city operations, are hypocrites, reaping what they sowed. It wasn't public employees that made this mess (among others) it was top level city management doing the work of their political masters, Hieftje and the councilors who backed Fraser at the time. Iirc, there was a proposed millage for removing dead trees. It was a sleight of hand budget maneuver by Fraser and Jayne Miller, that due to Miller's incompetence, was voted down by the voters. How much are private contractors costing the city?


Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 11:19 p.m.

True- it take years of experience to become a well versed arborist. The city is trying to save money by letting trained experienced workers retire and then replacing some of them with temps ( low pay and no vacation/medical). I can tell you that a half way quality tree person can make between 3 and 400% more money working for a private company. You get what you pay for.

You Don't Say

Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 2:44 p.m.

Hey everyone, are we surprised at this? The city has planted all of these trees (especially in the 1970's) and now they cannot maintain them. Sound like a familiar scenario (roads, sidewalks, sewer system, parks, schools)? Like I have been saying, the city has gotten so big (poor management) that it can no longer efficiently maintain its infrastructure. Its only going to get worst folks unless city government opens its eyes, stops expanding, stop wasting its money on stupid projects that do not serve the public, and starts generating some revenue to pay for this stuff. Hey Mr. Mayor and city council, has anyone told you its not the 1950's anymore? Unreal.

Linda Peck

Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 11:24 p.m.

So agree. We are seeing this lack of intelligence all over the State, i.e., Detroit, and other Michigan cities.

Homeland Conspiracy

Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 2:33 p.m.

Pay a artist (from out of town or country) a billion dollars to hand stuff from the dead trees & call it public art

Homeland Conspiracy

Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 6:01 p.m.

*hang Come on we demand a "Edit Button"


Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 2:28 p.m.

Absolutely no reason to plant a tree on someones extension unless THEY are willing to water it. If the tree dies charge them for the tree. I have seen neighbors have landscaping done that cost thousands of dollars then never once water the trees or shrubs.


Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 2:47 p.m.

Extension trees seem to never be maintained in any city in Michigan,canton keeps planting on canton center rd. the grow and intruded on utility lines creating more problems. Who benefits from this ,they are never pruned ,block vision of signage and light in some areas ,impairing driving conditions.

James Hamilton

Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 1:48 p.m.

A big limb from a city tree, about 30 feet long, broke off and badly damaged a smaller tree that I planted on my property. The tree subsequently died. The city said it was an act of God, I said it was lack of pruning. I think we now know who was right. It is a shame that the city has blame God for its errors. I am wondering if the cars damaged from falling limbs mentioned in this article were repaired at the city, or was it an act of God.

Ann English

Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 10:48 p.m.

Sounds like irresponsible government, to call tree limbs falling from a lack of pruning an act of God; it was something they could have prevented, something more predictable than last winter's heavy wet snowfall that also brought big tree limbs down on cars parked too close to them.


Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 10:03 p.m.

I didn't think that progressives believed in God.


Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 3:59 p.m.

Actually, be happy he blamed GOD. Given how secular Ann Arbor is, I am surprised GOD even comes up in the conversation..........:)


Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 1:44 p.m.

Wow! Rome is burning and we are spending money on art. Go figure!


Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 4:22 p.m.

Yeah Goob, it blows the mind doesn't it?


Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 1:39 p.m.

As many gas leaks that are present around A2 neigbborhoods I can bet that many trees were killed due to poor maintenance fom your local natural gas provider by not fixing gas leaks in a timely manner. Initially the area where gas leaks occur plants or trees will thrive for a few months and then any vegetation, grass, shrubs and trees will eventually dry out and die. File a claim and make Consumers Energy pay for new trees,


Mon, Jul 29, 2013 : 2:08 p.m.

jcj: your right and uneducated guess.


Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 8:51 p.m.

How many trees are actually killed by gas leaks? Care to make an educated guess? I will make an uneducated guess. Less than 1%. Who do we go after for the other 99%? The electric company because of the radio waves? If there were so many dead trees because of gas leaks this city would be like the Chicago fire.


Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 6:54 p.m.

JCJ: the gas lines that were installed years ago were bare steel or wrapped steel pipe eventually they corrode due to the electrolysis or other causes thus creating leaks. It can be by tree roots but more than likely old piping system. I worked for over 30+ years in the industry and made out many claims from customers for replacing various trees and plants. I even get thumbs down for telling what the city could do recoup possible losses. Go figure, let them pay so they can increase your property taxes.


Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 2:25 p.m.

What exactly do you think cause most of the leaks? Any chance it is the roots from the trees?


Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 1:33 p.m.

The backlog of tree removal creates some potentially dangerous situations with dead trees and limbs vulnerable to coming down on property during strong storms. This is the same problem as the tremendous "backlog" of unfilled potholes. The city would rather spend money on consultants for imagining State Street or Wash Ave or on public art, rather than fixing infrastructure and removing dead trees. It's time for the mayor to go. His priorities are not in the best interests of AA residents.


Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 3:58 p.m.

Yes, but unfortunately they were at the local Art Auction keeping an eye out for a bargain for John boy!

Fat Bill

Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 1:31 p.m.

You know, if you have three people with large tree experience, they become the crew leaders. You have other forestry, parks, and utility employees work under them so that they gain the relevant experience. Eventually, you have more crew members capable of big tree removal. Apprenticeship is an ancient but still relevant technique.


Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 1:30 p.m.

Yet another glaring example of out-of-balance priorities for our city. We'll spend nearly $500K on art for the Stadium bridge and Argo cascades but "Tree Town" can't take care of their trees. We'll spend hundreds of thousands "streetscaping" downtown while the trees in the other 95% of the city are neglected. Time to get back to sensible priorities - Jack Eaton for city council in the 4th ward. Vote on Aug 6!


Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 3:56 p.m.

Yes, we need Jack and we also need to keep Stephen! Vote on 8-6-13.

Steve Hendel

Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 1:29 p.m.

Mayor John Hieftje agreed the city needs to start putting more resources into forestry and do a better job of both routine trimming and removal of dead and dying trees. "I'll be pushing for that and discussing it closely with staff," he said. "Because it seems to me that we don't have the handle on it that we should." Ah well, your honor, we are only reaping what has been sown over years of misdirected priorities. We plant more trees even though we cannot afford to maintain the ones we have; we buy more parkland and development rights even as the money for mowing and other maintenance dries up; the list goes on.


Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 1:34 p.m.

Exactly. The parks get mowed only a few times during the summer, which is ludicrous. The mayor has to go.


Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 1:14 p.m.

Matt Warba, the city's field operations manager, said the city had 15 full-time forestry employees in 1999 and now it has 10. Park operations went from 25 to 10 FTEs in that same time. BUT I am sure the Mayor will set his sights on some new PUBLIC art, as it would be a much better expenditure. NOT! :)

Basic Bob

Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 2:37 p.m.

And apparently they let go the people who can cut down trees and kept the dead wood. That is the first place they need to prune.


Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 1:12 p.m.

So let's take resources from other programs and build a quirky skate park instead to saddle the City with even more long term expense it can't afford. How about taking care of existing priorities first in our declining revenue market before assuming new unfunded liabilities?


Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 8:33 p.m.

Wait until the first person cracks their head open there. Lawsuit.


Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 1:06 p.m.

Was this article written before or after the glowing endorsement for Marcia Higgins ???


Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 12:54 p.m.

In general, we as a society don't maintain our infrastructure, or budget for future maintenance and/or replacement. This is true for trees, roads, bridges, the list goes on. Big noise over getting the government (whether local, state, or federal) to use our tax dollars to build something. Never any discussion or budget commitment at that time about "wait, if we spend $50 million to do this, how much do we need to set aside each year for maintenance or future replacement"? When it's done, no one says "hey, we need to replace that ____ in ___ years". Or "to make this last, we need to spend _____ per year on maintenance". Going to the taxpayers (whether local, state, or federal) and saying we're going to increase your taxes by ____ for this future thing never works. Same is true as we're all learning for pensions and retirement plans, whether in government or business. At least businesses can end the plan and covert it to 401K, whereas public entities can't and are stuck with past commitments that cannot be honored. We're very much a GIVE THIS TO ME NOW society with little thought to future impact. Something we all need to consider.


Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 1:15 p.m.

Who cares how anything will be maintained or funded in the future? That's the next "guy's" problem! Politicians and special interest project groups only concern themselves with what they can get NOW.

Kevin McGuinness

Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 12:42 p.m.

the city's lack of tree maintenance is disgraceful.

Jay Thomas

Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 9:48 p.m.

Letting the stadium bridges collapse was even more of a disgrace. But that's situation normal here.


Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 4:24 p.m.

Yes Kevin, at this rate we can someday soon rename Ann Arbor "Stump Town."


Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 12:40 p.m.

I called the city years ago about two city-owned maple trees on my lawn. On one the canopy was thinning and a couple of small branches were dying off every summer. (Additionally, what had once been trees with brightly colored yellow leaves in the fall are now producing leaves with huge black spots on them.) I was assured by the forestry department nothing was wrong. Now one tree is half dead with a sparse canopy on the live part, and the other one is dying back and thinning quickly. All the maples in the neighborhood are exhibiting the same symptoms. Perhaps if the city had been more proactive they could have saved them, but now my neighborhood is doomed to look like others which lost all their ash trees. Maybe the city can install trees like the "art trees" in West Park so the entire neighborhood will look like the christmas tree lot in "A Charlie Brown Christmas".


Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 3:24 p.m.

LA, my trees have tar spots every year since the branches started to die back. All the maples in my neighborhood look the same to varying degrees, they are ALL losing their canopies. I believe what they are suffering from is maple decline. I just looked at the front of my house and street Friday on google earth and the changes in all the maples are stunning. I wonder how much my utility bills will go up once the two formerly lush maples die and no longer provide shade from the summer sun.

peg dash fab

Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 3:16 p.m.

63townie, you just sat there and watched your trees die?


Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 3:07 p.m.

From a private forester: The black spots are called Tar Spots and supposedly they happen as a result of too much/little rainfall. They are not dangerous to the trees, but they said to not use them for mulch.


Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 1:01 p.m.

I have two huge maple trees in my yard.Last year they had the black spots on them, this year they're fine. I live in Ypsi township and I do have to laugh at Ann Arbor's priorities and waste of money

Elijah Shalis

Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 12:40 p.m.

One more reason to vote for Jack Eaton


Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 11:34 p.m.

Jackey Appleseed.

Basic Bob

Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 2:35 p.m.

Is he an arborist?

Hugh Giariola

Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 12:40 p.m.

Even though some of those trees lie in the easement of a property (between the street and sidewalk), isn't it still the property owner's responsibility for tree maintenance?


Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 11:40 p.m.

Usual, it would be very convenient if your tree happened to "prune itself" during the next storm. Or do they want a permit for that. Just do it. They're so oblivious they will never notice. Or will the city pay for your personal tree if it dies?

Hugh Giariola

Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 6:34 p.m.

Wow, I did not realize that. Thanks Usual and Soothslayer for the info!


Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 1:31 p.m.

Yes it's the property owners responsibility to have it handled properly just like anything else (upkeep, fencing, drainage, etc). Requiring a permit and ensuring it will be done properly doesn't prohibit anyone from taking care of what they're supposed to. There are reasons for the permit and licensed work. Ahh city life!

Usual Suspect

Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 12:46 p.m.

No. I asked to have mine trimmed, since it's overpowering the tree in my yard, and they said they might be able to get to it next year. When I asked about trimming it myself, they said I have to get a permit and hire a professional.


Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 12:33 p.m.

Wow. So much property tax, so many things not being done. Planting trees and letting them die, not taking care of dead ones. Another great thing for our visitors to point at when they whisper to each other about what fools we are to pay such high property taxes. I wonder if it's eventually going to come out that Ann Arbor leaders are wasting, mismanaging, and misspending a lot of tax money. Remember the $800,000 they decided not to put back into its respective funding sources, because they want to "administer" the public art program into its ignominious end. That does NOT count the $360,000 going in at the bridge. What was it, $40,000 on the environment al impact study on the TWO wind turbines that we know will be huge losses in terms of energy production? How much more than a million was spent on the Fuller Road train station preparation/water main move? How many millions spent on train station studies, design, planning, sell-jobs, etc.? How much lost in total buying the old YMCA, then paying to relocate people, then paying to demolish it, then paying interest-only payments on it? Our voter turnouts are terrible; Time for people to wake up and take charge. You think they're going to stop wasting your money?


Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 1:26 p.m.

It doesn't matter what the residential tax rate is, it will never be able to replace the ever eroding commercial tax base. UofM, in it's quest for insatiable growth and world domination, is the very cancer killing Ann Arbor. I hope they seriously reconsider destroying Blimpy Burger or incorporate it into the new graduate sardine can dorm. Displacing Blimpy simply demonstrates they don't care at all.


Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 12:42 p.m.

Don't forget the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on the downtown convention center nobody wanted.

Dog Guy

Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 12:32 p.m.

Although the City Hall Bucket Brigade for years has carried money from Water Utilities in a Stormwater Bucket as well as an Art Bucket, the little trees die of thirst. Nevertheless this town shall remain famous for its big trees.

Silly Sally

Mon, Jul 29, 2013 : 12:08 p.m.

Can dogs water the trees?


Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 12:31 p.m.

Never ceases to amaze me the lack of priorities with city hall. I could begin a list, but it's much to nice a day to waste (and I'm not into wasting resources like the city)

Usual Suspect

Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 12:25 p.m.

But we have public-funded art, so everything is just fine.

Roger Kuhlman

Mon, Jul 29, 2013 : 2:57 p.m.

Yeah am important liberal special interest group is happy and the public 'art' satisfies the vanityand sense of importance of the local pols. What could be better?


Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 7:13 p.m.

I assume this was meant to be a sarcastic remark??!!


Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 12:23 p.m.

Planting more trees that won't be watered is kind of like getting a new credit card even though I can't pay off the other three I have!


Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 12:20 p.m.

Lay off the people studying and marking the dead trees and hire someone that can cut them!


Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 12:26 p.m.

oh just lay off the mayor


Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 11:59 a.m.

Hire more qualified people to get the job done right or hire contracted work to catch up, then do not fall behind again.

Jim Osborn

Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 11:56 a.m.

Last summer I noticed that many trees in city parks and on city medians were dying from a lack of water due to the drought and were not being watered. This was especially true for young trees that had just been planted. I met with the mayor at his office. He said that they only had one watering truck. I suggested that since park grass did not need to be mowed very often, perhaps someone could use the truck in the evenings instead of cutting crass that does not grow. Another idea was to hire a construction water truck or a landscape company. I also explained that is southern California, it never rains, people water, and trees never die. Some p[people need to be educated to water. The mayor did neither and thousands of trees died. Now this year we are spending much more to plant new trees. What a waste of money. "The city recently signed a $509,125 contract with Margolis Companies Inc. to have another 1,750 trees planted along city streets over the next two years"


Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 2:59 p.m.

Margolis planted new trees in our neighborhood last summer. They regularly water their new during the first year, while the trees are under warranty. It's a shame that the city did not utilize their gator bags last summer. I noticed the trees dying while the bags sat empty.

Jim Osborn

Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 11:57 a.m.

The city last year and this year spent money on tree gator bags, but never fills them with water.


Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 11:38 a.m.

I also have complained to the city about dead and dying trees in our neighborhood. I was told basically that we could trim them ourselves. I think the city's Public Art Program is replacing trees with a more permanent (?) and less attractive solution--public art. Goodby Tree Town!


Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 11:12 a.m.

When I see any headline discussing the City "falling behind" on what I might consider to be essential duties and services, it brings to the forefront of my attention all of the other areas the City wastes time and money on. I'm not going to list them here, but I'm sure others can think of a few right off the top of their head.


Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 7:09 p.m.

IS this one of the very poor reasons there is talk of a City Income Tax(es).??? I would hope the citizens of AA would insist the City "re-bucket" the art money and put it in the "Tree Bucket". A tree is a natural piece of beautiful art....and costs much less than fake fountains, etc.


Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 10:59 a.m.

Amazing that people fought for art with this issue, cuts in police and fire... If trees are planted, don't they have a warranty? If so, has the city missed making claims?


Mon, Jul 29, 2013 : 8:09 p.m.

In past years, I have had two young replacement trees planted by the city in the "easement" space on my lot. Both came with printed instructions to water them regularly for a season or so. Never occurred to me to argue, I had a working hose, and both trees have flourished.


Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 1:16 p.m.

In all this kvetching, I haven't seen one posting that states that people water the street trees on their own property. It isn't that difficult to add water to those Gator bags, or water a tree when it's looking stressed, yet I see plenty of them totally neglected when a little citizen participation might have at least saved the newly planted trees. And don't get me started on how people ruin trees by weed-whipping the bark and putting mulch volcanos around the base of the trees. (Yes, both the volcanos and the weed-whipping will kill the trees....slowly and effectively). Also, Ryan, did anyone at the Forestry Dept. mention the Citizen Pruner training that's been created that has volunteers trained to proactively prune young trees?


Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 12:48 p.m.

CPL Townie: Don't know where you shop, but when I buy a bush or tree from Lowe's, Home Depot, OR a local nursery, it comes with a one or two year warranty against dying. If it dies, I bring it back and get a new one. Unless you buy in the middle of the hot weather when they put things on clearance at nurseries without a warranty, that's the way it works. I understand that the city may not have watered things, but nothing in the warranty says it won't get replaced due to that. Some years ago I oversaw a replanting of a subdivision's entranceway. We specified that it had to be deer-resistant and have a 1 year replacement warranty. That winter the deer ate the all of one side of the entranceway, plants that if you looked them up were high on the deer resistant list. I called the landscaper in March, he came and looked, shook his head, and said he would be replacing everything under the warranty. As a nice gesture, I offered to let him replant things on the untouched side to even more deer resistant species as long as the new plantings got another year warranty. He readily agreed to that.


Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 12:27 p.m.

Living things don't come with 'warranties'. One takes care of a living thing, like water it. - the city planted trees on my street last summer of 100+ degrees and no rain, and most have died. No water.

Silly Sally

Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 11:45 a.m.

The city needs to water them or they die


Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 10:36 a.m.

That's what you get when you spend money on art instead of city maintainence.

Burr Oak

Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 11:01 a.m.

Yes, and I think you might qualify that to say art of a questionable quality. Aesthetically, it is much more appealing to see a well designed unadorned bridge, a field of natural grass, or a clean brick wall, than to have busy decorations popping out of the ground or the sides. I love art, but what I see in town looks more like decorations. Let's consider again why there is an undersized palm tree in West Park.


Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 10:31 a.m.

Trees ? who needs em..we've got art....much better use of tax $$$$ at least according to the powers that be...


Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 10:28 a.m.

I have complained to the city about the undergrowth on Eisenhower Parkway. It is difficult to do a turn around east to west with all this growth near the library. They don't do a thing about it. They planted a lot of trees last year and many died. What a waste of money and time.


Mon, Jul 29, 2013 : 12:03 a.m.

Last year was also a record-breaking hot summer. I'm not surprised many young trees died, even if watered on a 'normal' schedule that would have been adequate in other years. We worked very hard to keep some alive in our park, but I can imagine other trees didn't get the same attention.


Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 4:47 p.m.

The article states that it is the contractors', not the city's responsibility to water. My question would be: Are the contractors obligated to replant where the original tree dies in the first year or two, especially when watering is an issue?


Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 1:38 p.m.

We also saw a lot of the new trees they planted last year die. They didn't maintain them or water them. No surprise. Lack of maintenance on so many levels.

Alan Goldsmith

Sun, Jul 28, 2013 : 10:11 a.m.

Correct me if I'm wrong but haven't YOU been in office for over a decade Mr. Mayor? I understand you have other priorities other than City services but not sure how you can look in the mirror after yet another failure of your leadership and say you'll look into it. How do they take care of tree issues on Montreal? Paris? Portland? Lol. "Mayor John Hieftje agreed the city needs to start putting more resources into forestry and do a better job of both routine trimming and removal of dead and dying trees. "I'll be pushing for that and discussing it closely with staff," he said. "Because it seems to me that we don't have the handle on it that we should.""


Mon, Jul 29, 2013 : 7:09 p.m.

Thats right, blame it on the Mayor. LOL