Waterfront Park tree removal explained

25 Apr Waterfront Park tree removal explained

Recently a resident contacted me asking why a seemingly healthy tree in the Waterfront Park was declared “diseased” and cut down. The resident noted the limbs appeared solid and healthy. Here is a detailed explanation from Eliza Hill, City Landscape Architect on why these trees are in fact unhealthy and require removal.

“Thank you for your interest and concern for the trees in Waterfront Park. As certified arborist for the City, I consulted with both Michael Murphy of Preservation Tree and Derrick Wells of Bartlett Tree and they concur with necessity for removal of the Willow oaks as marked.  Currently, we’re removing a total of 14 trees. These trees have been in a continual state of decline for many years.  This decline was exacerbated by park renovations in 2006. 


It’s interesting to note that in 2005 before park renovations began, I had the opportunity to consult on-site with Dr. Don Marx regarding the Willow oaks.  He recommended they be removed at that time. His reasoning: the trees biological systems were going to be ‘fatally compromised’ by required excavation work to correct storm drainage.  Obviously the city chose to retain the trees.


The Willow oak (Quercus phellos) is not a good tree selection for our lowcountry soils and climate.  They’re best used in the Piedmont and further north. The trunk and limbs are solid (you won’t necessarily see the cavities and decay of trunk as we do with Laurel oaks), but the excessive amount of canopy dieback and mistletoe (see attached photos from this past winter; presence of mistletoe weakens limbs and increases chances of structural failure), despite our treatments over the last 10 years, dictate removal.  Also, the caliper of some of the trees removed is very small (12”+/-).  Based on the age of these trees, each should be about 30”+ DBH.  And for obvious reasons of public safety, we cannot allow the continual shedding of limbs as these trees decline.


Knowing removal of these trees would occur in the future, you may have noticed the planting of smaller trees in relatively close proximity to the Willow oaks over the last several years.  This is a standard arboricultural practice in urban environments when progressive decline of older trees continues.  This is our planting for the future generations that will enjoy Waterfront Park.


Please let me know if I can be of further help to you.”


Eliza C. Hill

City Landscape Architect

Department of Planning and Development Services