Our Treasured Trees are Thriving

Preserving South Boundary’s iconic live oaks remains a vital part of this public/private initiative. Following the first half of proposed undergrounding, or ground boring, of power lines on South Boundary, the huge trees from Charleston to Williamsburg Streets were carefully pruned by Bartlett Tree Experts. Dacre Stoker, Aiken Streetscapes Executive Director, explains that the plan was for Dominion Energy to send a crew back to Aiken this spring to complete the ground boring from Williamsburg to Whiskey Roads. Although Dominion originally advised that they were so far behind, the project would have to wait until 2023, Dacre was pleasantly surprised to hear recently that Dominion advised the City that they were able to resume the project to bury the power lines this spring. Bartlett will complete their prescription pruning on the same stretch of trees during the optimum season, December through February.

Dacre reports on additional proactive pruning projects that began with what he refers to as the Colleton corridor. “Basically, it encompasses Colleton Avenue from Newberry in front of the Willcox all the way to Charleston Avenue, as well as the side streets between South Boundary and the railroad tracks,” he clarifies. He notes that the work was done by a local company, Collins Tree Service, and adds, “We have had lots of positive comments about their work. Plus, we’ve experienced some strong windstorms and the debris was noticeably less in these areas of proactive pruning.”

The next area slated for pruning is the downtown business and residential core. “The next phase will encompass all the parkways, Park Avenue, Richland, and Barnwell,” Dacre says. The work has stopped temporarily as spring and summer are the growing season and not a good time to prune; the work will recommence in the fall and winter.

He emphasizes that, in urban areas, pruning has two important purposes. “Proactive pruning is important to the
health of the tree as it doesn’t leave broken branches that are openings for water, rot, and fungus that can damage and potentially kill the tree. And secondly, pruning trees is important for the safety of the people that live underneath them. We want to minimize the risk of branches falling on homes, cars, and people.”

While he notes that to date, much of the group effort for Aiken’s trees has been geared toward pruning and fertilizing trees, Dacre is excited about a new endeavor, the Legacy Project. Streetscapes donated additional funds to finish a greenhouse that will be used for propagation of grand trees in Aiken. “People hear about us pruning trees, but the Legacy Project will also put us in the business of helping re-grow trees from the grand trees of Aiken.

Planting TreesWhen a tree comes down, we are committed to re-plant three in its place,” he says. “If we can use cuttings and acorns to grow them in the greenhouse, maybe in two years or so we can put them in the ground, and it would be part of the same tree, like a child of that tree!”

It is hoped that the Legacy Project will be an outlet for the entire community to contribute by way of smaller donations. The Executive Committee of ALC, along with Dacre representing Aiken Streetscapes, will work with the City of Aiken Public Works department to develop a mutually beneficial outreach program for the propagation of legacy trees. This is another example of a public/private initiative to benefit our trees in Aiken.

We all love our Tree City USA and want to minimize utility cuts as much as possible. Residents, too, can help by being responsible property and tree owners. “We are always here to educate residents about their own trees — especially what types of trees or shrubs are or are not appropriate to plant near power lines. Avoid the pitfalls of utility cuts,” Dacre encourages.