Johnson City changing downtown trees

Gary B. Gray • Mar 22, 2013 at 9:11 PM

If a tree falls on Main Street and there is nobody there to hear it, does it make a sound?

Perhaps not. But in keeping with Johnson City’s current mode of improving both the function and fashion of its downtown, it may make a difference.

City workers this week have been removing tree trunks from raised concrete planters along Main Street to make way for a kinder, gentler species that is much less likely to cause maintenance problems, drop seeds and heavy leaves, wrap its branches around light poles and reach into oncoming traffic.

“The city is talking about redoing streetscape work on Main,” said Patrick Walding, city forester. “So, to alleviate some problems we might encounter when that work is being done, we are removing the old trees and replacing them.”

Walding said several of the Goldenrain trees that have been in place at various locations downtown for about 15 years already have been replaced with Armstrong Red Maples. The plan is to uproot and discard the remaining Goldenrains, which grow very wide and shed lots of seeds and leaves, with 16 Armstrongs.

Workers have been hard at it using what is called a stump grinder to literally tear apart what’s left of the remaining Goldenrains. The new trees, which will be about 12 feet high when planted, should be set in place in a few weeks.

“The trees were getting pretty large for the space available,” he said. “Some died off, and some were being hit by trucks. Some business owners came to us and told us about these concerns. Trees downtown are inviting, and that helps during Blue Plum and for other visitors, as well as business owners and citizens.”

Walding said the new trees are more narrow and grow directly upward. They also are low maintenance, have a smaller trunk and grow to be only about 15 feet wide. He said the replanting along Main Street should be finished in a few weeks. The new trees will begin appearing along Market Street in the fall.

“We’re also contemplating using some hanging baskets downtown,” he said. “We’re going to try them after the improvements on Buffalo Street are done. They would hang just below the banner brackets on the light poles. We’d like to have maybe three different types of flowers that droop down, and we’d grow them in our greenhouse.”

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