Committee to hear urban forestry, street tree update Tuesday

LEXINGTON, KY – The Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government (LFUCG) Environmental Quality and Public Works Committee is set to hear an annual update on the city’s urban forestry and street tree initiatives at their upcoming meeting on Tuesday, July 11.

A sizable proportion, around 90%, of Lexington’s street trees are privately maintained. The LFUCG has implemented assistance programs for these owners, including the Hazard Street Tree (Cost Share) Program and the Courtesy Street Tree Pruning Program. The Cost Share program provides a 50% cost share for the removal and replacement of hazardous street trees, as well as 100% grants for qualified property owners.

To participate, property owners must obtain quotes from two of the city’s prequalified certified arborist vendors and submit an application. After an initial inspection by an Urban Forester, tree removal and replacement are carried out by the selected vendor.

The Hazard Street Tree Program, with an initial budget of $150,000 in FY 2020, was halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the city has since committed additional funds to the program, with $50,000 allocated in FY 2021 and $202,122 paid out in FY 2023, far surpassing the initial budget of $50,000.

Hazard Street Tree (Cost Share) Program, FY23 Tree Species Replanted (LFUCG)

As per the report, the tree species most frequently removed in FY 2023 were ash, pear, pin oak, and red maple. In replacement, species like red maple, black gum, eastern redbud, flowering dogwood, and kousa dogwood were favored.

One highlighted success story from FY 2023 was a homeowner in CD 9 who replaced four pin oaks with a diverse array of species, including black gum, sugar maple, yellow poplar, and yellowwood.

The Committee will also review the outcomes of the Street Tree Clearance Pruning Program. The program, which has pruned a total of 31,591 street trees from FY16 to FY23, was praised for contributing to reductions in complaints related to dead and dying trees, hazard removal times, and staff costs related to enforcement and abatement.

Looking ahead, LFUCG plans improvements for FY24, including a shift from “reactive” or “complaint based” services to a more “proactive” model with a multi-year schedule. This approach aims to include more extensive pruning and improved tree health.

For the coming fiscal year, the city has allocated $85K for the Street Tree Clearance Pruning Program and $150K for the Hazard Street Tree (Cost Share) Program. An additional $1.5M will be directed through the Tree Canopy Ad Hoc Committee, with portions aimed at enhancing the Cost Share Program and supporting initiatives by local organizations such as Trees Lexington! and Geomancer Permaculture.

Top photo: An LFUCG handout announces coming street tree pruning. (LFUCG)