Two city arborists become tree risk assessors

By Rachel DePompa - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – Two of the city's three arborists are among the first in the area to complete a new training. It makes them experts in figuring out whether a tree could become a danger to you.

With 150,000 trees in the city, it seems their work is never done.

"This is the kind of tree where this tree definitely presents some risks," said city arborist Luke McCall.

Luke and Mike Mather, also a city arborist, were recently certified as tree risk assessors. They study the roots, hollows, splits and broken branches, looking for clues to a tree's health.

"I think there are a lot of citizens that want to know that the city is making good decisions about trees," said McCall.

They're trying to prevent incidents like this from last January, where a large tree branch impaled a car in the city's Museum District.

"In an ideal world people want us to know the day that tree is going to fail and take care of it the day before that. That's an impossibly," said Mather.

He admits that's impossible, but says they do everything they can to keep a tree in the ground. They prune and treat them. He says the last resort is cutting it down.

The agency came under fire earlier this year when an audit revealed the city was spending more on cutting trees down than on planting them.

"Our planting program has been ramping up. We noticed that we had been losing a lot of trees. There were a lot of trees lost during hurricane Isabel seven years ago," said McCall.

This year the city expanded their department's budget, giving them enough money to plant nearly 2,000 trees.

"The trees belong to the citizens. We need to try to work with the citizens. With improving our urban forest," said Mather.

If you have a tree you are worried about and want the city to come take a look you can call 311.

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