City Works to Fix Downtown Trees

David Fransen

Plant a tree that is surrounded by a sidewalk, and sooner or later the growth of the tree is bound to cause problems – or so the Turlock Downtown Property Owners Association and the City of Turlock have found.

The picturesque trees in Downtown Turlock have displaced pavers and tree grates, leading to expensive, time-consuming repairs. In early February, eighteen downtown tree grates had to be fixed in a single day.

“We’ve done a significant amount of work in leveling the pavers where they’ve risen or sank,” said Turlock Downtown Property Owners Association Assistant Coordinator Dana McGarry. “It’s a natural occurrence as the trees mature and roots grow, it pushes up the soil above the roots.”

The growth from the trees has also damaged electrical boxes, cutting off power at times. The electrical boxes, installed adjacent to the trees, were intended to provide power for tree lighting or vendors during street fairs.

“The electrical boxes are being eliminated as the trees take them over,” said City of Turlock Parks, Recreation and Public Facilities Superintendent Erik Schulze. “We have been taking care of the tree wells where the trees have grown into the grates.”

According to Schulze, the City of Turlock has approximately 172 hours logged in time to repair the grates and remove the electrical boxes. Although most of the work was done in 2011, the estimated cost to the City of Turlock is approximately $17,000 to date.

Although the pavers and trees may have caused minor issues for the City of Turlock and the TDPOA, they were originally constructed to benefit the city and its residents, planners say.

Constructed as a collaboration between the city and the then-Downtown Business District, the downtown makeover was paid for with redevelopment agency, city, federal grant and Downtown Property Owner funds. Hundreds of hours went into planning every detail, Turlock City Engineer Mike Pitcock said.

“At the onset, a design committee was assembled that consisted of downtown business/property owners, interested citizens and city staff. This committee spent hundreds of hours and logged many miles to review other agency improvements and determine what was best for Turlock,” said Pitcock. “This committee made all design decisions for the pavers, trees, tree grates, benches, garbage cans, bike racks, lighting, landscape areas/pots, landscape materials and the fact that they wanted power in the lights and at each tree along Main Street.”

Extra time was spent deciding what trees would fit best, according to Sharon Silva, CEO of the Turlock Chamber of Commerce

“We spent a lot of time discussing the type of trees that we would place downtown,” Silva said. At the time of the project, Silva was the director of the TDPOA, leading the downtown redevelopment project.

The trees ultimately chosen by the design committee for the project were selected for two reasons. First, the trees offered optimal shade for downtown visitors, and second, the roots of the trees were supposed to continue growing downward as to not push up on the pavers and sidewalk.

“We wanted to continue putting on multiple events downtown that would require electricity, for speakers and vendors,” Silva said. “The tree wells, the trees and electrical boxes were designed to accommodate shade and electrical power capability for events.”

In addition to the trees, 36-inch cement boxes were installed around the roots to help direct root growth in a downward fashion.

But according to Pitcock, the roots are now growing under the bottom of the box. As the roots increase in diameter, they are beginning to lift the concrete boxes and pavers above.

Even with the careful planning, and specific selection of the trees as to avoid the root growth problem, some things can not always be avoided.

“It just goes to show the power of Mother Nature,” said Pitcock.

Comments 1

  1. guest T says:
    "It just goes to show you power of mother nature" Really, is that the best response that you can come up with? Who signed off on this City design? Who is being held accountable?
    I guess you have never been down Sycamore, Merritt or Myrtle Streets to observe all the damage that has been done, this is just the begining of the damage that will occur from planting sycamores.
    Job well done....NOT.

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