Monday, February 3, 2014

Champion Fairhope Tree De-throned

Fairhope, Alabama


The huge crape myrtle tree located in the French Quarter downtown has been dethroned by another larger one in Wilcox County, according to Tree Committee members at their January meeting.

 It had been named state champ by the Alabama Forestry Commission in 1997.

The tree, owned by Bessie Montgomery, may still qualify as champion of that particular species only and as one for the city's Treasured Trees program -- administered by the Wisteria Garden Club (click here for info).

State champion (largest) trees are determined by adding points derived from measuring the diameter at breast height (4.5 ft), total height and crown spread.

Also, according to committee member and retired forester Patrick Waldrop, the Dahoon holly tree at the corner of Morphy and Section St. may now qualify as state champion, since there is currently no  champion of that variety; there may be other varieties around town as well to be submitted for consideration (beech, water oak, etc).


Since a number of members have resigned and others' terms are expiring, Committee Chairman Paul Fontenot said he had talked to the mayor about rejuvenating the committee -- by re-appointing those who want to be there and actively seeking nominations to fill the 2 vacancies.

Due to the shortage of members, the committee has been having difficulty assembling a quorum for its  recent meetings.

It was suggested having a realtor or developer on the committee may be good for balance.

Applications may be found on the city's website.


Fontenot said he also had discussions recently with the mayor about extending tree protection measures to the front yards of residentially-zoned neighborhoods throughout town -- primarily to tree canopies along older streets (ie. Magnolia Ave.).
protect the

The current ordinance only protects trees (beyond the maximum building setback line) on commercial property; and when new subdivisions are approved, he said.

Fontenot: "The majority are on private property (not city) ... the tree canopy is unprotected ... ."

Any new ordinance would need to be limited to large diameter trees and only some species (possibly live oaks only) according to committee members; and would most likely involve property owners only being required to seek a permit of some kind before cutting a tree.



The committee also passed a resolution asking that it be included in the planning process for the recently-purchased Dyas property north of town.

Member Walt Bolton: "We've got a lot of smart people with a lot of talent on this committee ... you'd think the tree committee would be involved in the thought process ... by the politicians ... we have value to bring ... ."

Forester Patrick Waldrop said he thought the best way to convert the area to a long-leaf pine ecosystem was to us a forest mower to remove and thin out all the unwanted understory hardwood trees and brush -- and then apply herbicides to discourage future growth.

Some burning-off of remaining materials may then be safely conducted if necessary.

Waldrop: "We are going to have to do something ... or its going to remain a jungle ... ."

The Resolution was proposed by Bolton:

"The Tree Committee asks to be active participants in the triangle property planning."

It passed unanimously.

(Note: Mayor Kant told the Times later he was ok with the resolution and wanted to include the whole community in the planning process for the land, possibly via town hall type meetings.  He said hiring an outside consultant may be a good idea as well.)


The committee also:

* Briefly discussed the ongoing problems with the Knoll Park pine forest restoration project.

* Heard that the developers (Bethea, Reid) of a new downtown building (Fairhope Ave. at Church St.) may want to considerably trim back the limbs of a large live oak tree -- because of liability concerns (root damage during construction and for tree balance).

A report from a certified arborist was to be brought to the next meeting for the committee's recommendations prior to construction.

(Mayor Kant told the Times later the tree should be protected from construction damage like the big live oak adjacent to the Hampton Inn hotel was during construction its in 2008-09.)

*Made plans for distributing seedlings and other events on Arbor Day.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

that poor old crape myrtle needs some help. how does it survive at all in those conditions?