Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Tree Maintenance in Sylvester Park, Old Capitol Building Campus

Above: Workers remove damaged limbs from a mature beech tree in Sylvester Park yesterday.
by Janine Unsoeld

Trees are being pruned, and some are slated for possible removal in Sylvester Park and the nearby campus of the Old Capitol Building.

Luke Colvin, owner of Arbor Care Tree Specialists, of Astoria, Oregon and his crew were spotted in the park yesterday taking care of some dangerous limbs. Colvin said that one tree, a Deodoria Cedar, had a "big fracture" in it as a result of last year's storm. The other tree they were pruning is a beech.

"These trees have some large crossing limbs in the upper canopy and some over weighted lower leaders...We've been honored to receive a two year contract with the state of Washington to maintain the trees in state parks and properties...now we're buried in work," said Colvin. He said the state has worked for two years on a progressive scope of work that includes an inventory and evaluation of trees throughout the Capitol Campus and state owned properties. Sylvester Park is owned and maintained by the state.

In late December, the company removed trees near the Insurance Building, and a nearly 35-foot-tall Western red cedar tree next to the Visitor Center at Capitol Way and Sid Snyder Avenue. That tree, which was adjacent to the pedestrian footbridge over Capitol Way, was diseased and posed a public safety hazard. Wood from the downed tree was offered to local tribes.

There are plans and a timeline of activities associated with the replanting of trees wherever possible. In the case of the four trees recently removed near the Insurance Building, replanting will not occur due to their proximity to the building. In three other campus locations where trees were removed, trees were replanted, with more replantings scheduled in the future.

Tree Inventory and Evaluation

Upon request of the state Department of Enterprise Services, Colvin's company evaluated the trees in Sylvester Park and the Old Capitol Building grounds.  At both locations, Colvin says he did not see any major signs or symptoms of root rot or large decay pockets in the trunks of the trees. Because of the lack of outward signs of major structural defects caused by decay, he only performed visual evaluations of the trees from the ground. 

According to the October 2012 report, his findings and recommendations mostly recommend proper pruning to repair storm damage, to establish proper structure and reduce tip weight on the lower leaders. This work will help insure long term preservation, help prevent future storm damage and reduce hazards.

Some trees, however, are slated for possible removal. Colvin's report includes the following description of his assessments:

Sylvester Park:

"Along the south side of the park, there is a row of conifer trees made up of Common juniper, False arborvitae, Western red cedar and Port Orford cedar. All of these trees have grown up in very close proximity to each other and thus have had a lot of competition for light and space. Due to this competition, the trees have taller heights than they should...and are over weighted in the upper canopies. Also, there are numerous included crotches because of co-dominant tops, minor to major storm damage and some small decay pockets. I recommend proper pruning and possible removal of a couple of the trees to reduce the hazards they pose.

Other trees:

On the west side of the park there is a row of six mature Norway maple trees that appear to be in good over-all condition. All six sustained minor to major storm damage. I recommend proper pruning to repair storm damage...."

In the southeast corner of the park is a mature American elm tree. This tree sustained major storm damage and has some very over weighted lower leaders. In the lower canopy, this tree is pushing a lot of epicormic growth from the main trunk. This could be in response to the storm damage or be a sign of another underlying problem. Further in depth evaluation should be performed to determine the health and safety of this tree. If the tree is found reasonably safe to retain, I recommend proper pruning to repair storm damage...."

Old Capitol Building grounds:
Two trees are recommended for removal.

"On the southwest corner of the building is a mature Western red cedar. This tree sustained major storm damage and has many very over weighted lower leaders. I recommend proper pruning to repair storm damage...."

On the southeast corner and the east side of the property, there are ten semi-mature Sweet gum trees. All ten sustained minor storm damage and one sustained major storm damage. The one that had the entire top broken out, I recommend removal and replacement. For the other nine, I recommend proper pruning to repair storm damage...."

On the northwest corner of the property is an over-mature Port Orford cedar. This tree has three major co-dominant tops. At all three unions, there is extensive included bark and each top is heavily weighted in one direction. Also, there was very poor annual shoot growth, which is major sign of stress. I recommend removal to mitigate life, traffic, pedestrian and structure safety hazard this tree poses. " 

Colvin and his team are scheduled to be in the park and on the Old Capitol Building grounds throughout the week.

Above: New grass was recently planted where a 119 year old beech tree was removed last year after it sustained heavy damage in last year's winter storm.


  1. Great work Janine,

    There's lots of details/information that's much appreciated... It's frustrating that this tree worker is so new on the scene and that he seems unaware of the intent/management work of the previous arborists who have cared for these trees in the past few decades. It's starting to seem like every few years a new person is in charge of GA tree care... Now its some dude in Astoria, Oregon?

    Or maybe there's more to it than that? But it doesn't look good. Especially the thought of this guy being in charge of the last ancient elm of old town Oly. Did he make mention of the tree's treatment schedule for Dutch Elm disease?

    It's ignorant of him to say that the epicormic growth is the result of the recent ice storm... In truth it's the result of the loss of its twin / neighbor elm, as well as having been twice pruned since the neighbor tree fell in a northeasterly storm in I think it was '06? Insult to injury is that this Elm has had all its neighbor trees cut down in the past 15 years; this tree is not getting the extra care it deserves and old Elms have nearly gone extinct on this continent due to Dutch Elm disease.

    And now its gonna be pruned again? Seems we need to make sure they don't end up pruning this tree to death! A certified arborist doesn't prune a healthy tree three times in a half-dozen years, yet that's what's being suggested in this article. Also this tree used to be on an expensive inoculation/protection schedule for dutch elm disease via the previous arborist... Hopefully the GA is still paying attention to all of this...

    I used to think the campus trees were in safe hands, but maybe the state is more interested in hiring low-price out-of-state arborists that don't have to live with what their chainsaws intend to do to our historic park that many of us use every day.

    Why not hire someone with decades of experience in local tree canopy?
    There are many of them?
    Seems irresponsible...
    Too many stumps may soon follow...
    I hope not...

  2. Update: I CC'd a previous copy of this comment to the arborist mentioned and enclosed below is his reply to me:


    First I would like to start by applauding your passion for the trees in Olympia and in particular the trees at Sylvester Park and the Old Cap Building. With that said, you made a lot of assumptions about me and my company without knowing anything about me. I have just recently have started caring for the State trees, but I’m certainly not new to tree care in the Pacific Northwest and I’m very involved in the ISA PNW chapter. I’m going through a process of getting to know the history and condition of the trees on the State properties I’m responsible for maintaining. I’m using resources from within the State and other private arborists in this process. Any input you may have would be appreciated.

    I certainly did not say the elm tree had epicormic growth because of the recent ice storm. What I said was, almost all the pruning we were doing was to repair storm damage because of the recent ice storm. I’m aware of the treatment plan in the past and I’m working with an independent consulting arborist, who is very aware of the campus trees.

    The State put out an RFQ last year to many different arborist companies that had far more emphasis on experience and resume, than price and I was the chosen company. I’m not “some dude in Astoria”, in fact I’ve been in the arboriculture industry for over fifteen years, constantly striving to stay up to date with the latest advancements in the tree care industry.

    I take this honor and responsibility very seriously and appreciate your feedback.

    Best regards,
    Luke Colvin
    ISA Certified Arborist, PN#6331A
    PNW-ISA Certified Tree Risk Assessor, CTRA#1451
    President, Arbor Care Tree Specialists

    503.791.0853 phone
    503.325.2581 fax