Trees connect us with our past and our future. Their roots are often far deeper than our own; their growth will yield leaves and flowers that bring pleasure to future generations.
The 600-acre property beneath New Town was once farmland, with heavily forested areas, apple orchards, pecan groves, and fields of grain. Most of it belonged to the Carl Casey family. Think of the personalities, organizations, interested parties, and visionaries that came together to create New Town.
The late Susan Ford’s excellent summation of the design and development of New Town is recounted in archived issues of The Crier (also summarized on this website’s History of New Town). Susan described the Design Competition that attracted 99 entrants from around the world. Entry packets called for an “innovative, mixed-use planned community” that integrated pleasing environmental assets. Designers were challenged to embrace the vision of a “new urbanism-style design, with shops and businesses, restaurants and homes, all within walking distance of each other. There would be tree-lined sidewalks and bike paths, civic spaces and open spaces, cultural buildings and churches – just as towns like Williamsburg used to have.”
They wanted this new community to become “a landmark development and a national model of the highest quality of the visual, social and economic aspects of town planning.”
From the start, trees were important, carefully selected and strategically placed with the future in mind. Planners learned about Native trees, visited other communities to appreciate how streetscapes and building design worked together to define neighborhoods.
Those residents who moved here in the early years threw their efforts and talent into preserving that bold vision. Homebuyers were attracted to the concept of this livable community, where outdoor amenities were as important as interior style. As the community continues to grow and mature it is helpful to keep that concept in the forefront.
Trees are a shared responsibility in New Town-accountability for caring for those on your property differs from park or sidewalk trees. For trees in common areas, think of reporting tree issues as helping, rather than complaining. The Landscape Advisory Committee (LAC) carries out many time-consuming tasks. Having residents take the time to pay attention to needs and issues really can help. Between Covid delays and weather issues, the landscape company fell behind in tree prunings this year. If residents can serve as the “eyes and ears” of the LAC, problems can be identified and hopefully resolved more quickly. Using the Report an Issue ticket system allows for issues to be directed to the proper entity.
Once a ticket is submitted, what happens next depends on a number of factors and requires a great deal of communication between the parties. There are multiple entities involved in some locations. For instance, New Town’s trails have not yet turned over from the developer, New Town Associates to NTRA. Some maintenance is worked out between the NTRA and the New Town Commercial Association. Roper Park, on the other hand, has been turned over but the developer failed to remove many dead trees that NTRA must now budget for.
After notification, an LAC member, or in some instances, a Town Management employee, will visit the site, evaluate the situation, then recommend whether to consult the landscape company or solicit bids from vendors. Budgeting for the removal and replacement of trees is the next step, which can delay fixes especially if a tree falls unexpectedly. Trees are a budget priority for 2021.
As important as it is to respond quickly to reported “issues,” HOA communities are urged to keep up a regular program of maintenance for tree and landscape features. Specific New Town trees have been identified as being in need of professional attention, but in general the LAC found in April 2020 that most of the residential area trees are in good health.
Trees need to be pruned correctly in order to withstand heavy winds and storms. To grow and flower they will require nourishment. Insecticide treatments, protection from freezing temperatures, and mulching are all important. Removing, repurchasing and replanting a tree is more costly by far than maintaining existing ones.
There is a downside to calling a tree “dead” and removing it too quickly. Often the soil must be treated. The group of trees planted at the same time will no longer be the same size or age. It takes 5 to 7 years for a tree to mature and that wait may be hard for some residents. There may be times when the ticket suggests, “tree is dead, needs to be removed” but involving a specialist can actually save the tree and money. That was evident in 2017. An arborist from Bartlett Trees with a great deal of expertise in saving trees recommended pruning and fertilizing 36 failing trees at a total cost of $500 rather than replacing all 36 trees at $500 per tree.
Patience, accumulated knowledge and experience, good will and an appreciation for those “roots” that bind our community to a grand vision, will go a long way to dealing with most issues.
*Look for next month’s article about choosing, planting and maintaining trees on your property.
TIPS FOR SUBMITTING A TREE TICKET
How to submit a ticket: Go to the NTRA website: www.ntrawilliamsburg.org. Explore the main MENU. Under the RESIDENTS tab you will find REPORT AN ISSUE. Select LANDSCAPE ISSUES in the dropdown box.
Identify yourself, using the form provided, and include phone or email contact info in case additional information is needed.
Note tree location. Is it on your property/ other private property/NTRA common area/commercial/ JCC/ developer/ unknown)? You can specify the nearest street address, intersection or other identifying landmarks.
What is your concern? Here are some typical concerns about trees.
1) Tree looks diseased or dead. (Describe what you see or take a photo) Are there visible bugs; signs of insect infestation; mounds of sawdust at tree base; discoloration of bark or leaves; fungus, mushrooms or mold at base or trunk; dropping large branches with no new growth. If possible take a photo and include with report.
2) Tree unstable. (roots lifting above ground, roots causing sidewalk to heave, main trunk is now leaning; tree injured by vehicle, landscape equipment; tree struck by lightning or windburst). Did you witness injury? Specify date if possible.
3) Tree presents danger to persons or property: Added risk because: tree planted too close to a home or play yard; tree leaning into parking area , walking path, roof, or home exterior; tree (or large branch) has fallen across walking path; large branches rubbing on roof or home exterior
4) Tree unsightly: State visual observations (needs pruning, has dead sections, misshapen canopy, too large for space). If cause is known, please state. Degradation of tree appearance can result from situations already mentioned, as well as: under- or over-watering; improper pruning; sustained high wind or heavy rain; incorrect fertilization or feeding; bad or insufficient soil; infestations.
When should a resident initiate a ticket? If you see something that seems wrong, submit a ticket. Problems that continue just make the situation worse. Early intervention may save a tree.