Four of the five trees recommended for removal from Bienville Square will not be felled, the city’s urban forester confirmed this week.
Peter Toler told Lagniappe he disagrees with advice given the Downtown Parks Conservancy from a Louisiana-based arborist, adding he believes four of the five trees deemed dangerous actually pose no immediate threat to the park’s visitors.
“They’ve got their issues, but nothing constitutes them having to come down right now,” Toler said. “They’re not an imminent danger to the public. When someone tells me a tree needs to come down, it says there is an imminent threat.”
Crews did remove a branch from one of the trees on Saturday, Dec. 15, near Conception Street, Toler said. There was rot through the middle of the entire 17-inch wide branch being held in place by two inches of healthy wood. Once the limb was removed the rest of the tree was “OK,” he said.
“The risk went from high to moderate,” Toler said.
Another tree had no signs of active decay and was protected by 19 inches of solid wood out of 24 total inches.
“There was no reason to take it down,” he said.
A fifth tree, near the fountain in the middle of the park, will probably be removed due to “the likelihood of failure, the likelihood of impact, the likelihood of failure and impact, as well as the consequences of failure.” An assessment took into account infrastructure “of high value” near the tree and whether the “target” is protected by other structures that would lessen the potential impact a tree falling has on the “target.”
“What I based my report on for Bienville Square was the park being packed for an event, like Mardi Gras,” Toler said.
The one tree Toler is about “98 percent” certain will need to be taken down has been harmed by soil compaction, leading to rot. Normal soil compaction is measured at 300 pounds per square inch or less, but within as much as 15 feet of the base of the tree in question, Toler said, the compaction measured more than 450 pounds PSI.
“Park usage is the reason for tree decline right now,” he said. “What happens with soil compaction is the trees cannot absorb water into their roots. Everything happening above ground is secondary.”
The city’s urban forestry department is looking at soil remediation techniques to help save the rest of the park’s 87 trees, which average about 90 years old, Toler said. Aeration and the addition of organic elements to the soil can help.
In plans released to the public, the Parks Conservancy hopes to make improvements to the park including additional landscaping elements to help the trees. Toler said he agrees with that move.
The conservancy also hopes to remove the fencing around the fountain and add more lighting to the park.