Trees have always been a priority of Ald. Marsha Rummel. So it was no surprise when I ran into her today that she reminded me to keep up with her ordinance to protect trees in the city from construction projects. This is part of what Rummel wrote me in September, when she was first pushing the idea to hold companies accountable for damage to trees:
This summer, 5 trees were lost, mostly due to contractor error, on Spaight St in my district. Currently city policies do not include fines for contractors who ruin/damage trees. Currently the ‘specs’ for requests for proposals and subsequent contracts for street work don’t highlight the policies we do have in place for trees.
The anguish neighbors felt this summer encouraged me to request that Engineering and Parks to review our practices. As mentioned above, the city has improved practices over the years. Sidwalk ‘sawing’ is a recent innovation, a way to level sidewalks by shaving them instead of digging out and replacing but there is still room to improve. In Milw, the city forester visits every construction site to insure that contractors are taking care when sanitary laterals are placed near trees. It’s not just the curb/sidewalk work but the utility connections to each property that result in excavation potentially on three sides of a terrace tree that put trees at risk. Milwaukee also charges a LOT of money for trees that are damaged when not predicted to be at risk.
Apparently Rummel has reason to be giddy about this issue today. She’s received enough support for an ordinance to assess fines for tree damage as well as require a higher level of review for trees during the construction process. Unfortunately I can’t find the text on the city website, so anybody (cough, cough Marsha) who finds it would be very nice to send it my way.
Nevertheless, I’m surprised by the notion that damage to trees goes unpunished in Madison. Right here, 23.21 in the city’s ordinances:
No person, corporation, or association shall plant, cut, prune, or remove any living tree or shrub in a public highway in the City of Madison, or cut, disturb or interfere in any way with the roots of any tree, to the extent of causing serious injury to such tree, in such public highway, or spray any such trees or shrubs with any chemical or insecticides without written permit of the Board of Park Commissioners.
What’s missing? A penalty to make the ordinance worth more than the paper it’s printed on.