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The majority of street tree plantings will be completed by staff in our General Services Department’s Urban Forestry Division. A few volunteer tree planting events conducted by our non-profit partner, Keep Durham Beautiful, will also contribute to the planting of street trees.
Approximately two weeks before a tree planting occurs, our urban forestry crews will leave informational door hangers on nearby residences to inform them of the tree installations. Additionally, there will be flag and paint markings indicating the approximate locations of the new street trees in the rights-of-way. All planting locations will be inspected for underground utilities prior to planting to ensure that utilities will not be impacted during digging. Most tree planting projects take a few hours to a few days to complete, with minimal impacts to the street during installation. Since these newly planted trees are on City property, it is entirely the City’s responsibility to plant, prune, stake, and maintain the trees. However, it would be helpful if our residents could water the trees nearest to their properties during the hot summer months, although there is no resident obligation to water our street trees. Please note, the tree planting season begins in November and ends in March of the following calendar year.
We chose a large variety of species every year depending on what is available at select nurseries. Traditionally, our staff selects a variety of Oak, Elm, Maple, Redbud, and other species. Our trees come in a variety of sizes and types, such as ball and burlap, bare root, and containerized material. Our goal is to never plant more than ten percent of one species in a given year, to ensure a diverse and resilient urban forest.
Neighborhoods selected to receive trees this year are the Downtown (including Old Five Points) as well as the Southside/Collegeview (including Hayti, NCCU) neighborhoods.
The rights-of-way (also referred to as “ROW”) are the areas of land intended to remain open for public or railroad use, upon which railroads and governments (state and local) maintain and exert control. The main use of the right-of-way is for transportation, but room for other government infrastructure exists there: hydrants, streetlights, signs, wires, pipes, sidewalks, etc. We distinguish between “City” and other rights-of-way because we don’t plant trees on state or private railway areas unless agreements are in place.
Right-of-way widths vary drastically. In older residential areas it is typically 40 to 50’ wide reflecting narrow streets, minimal setbacks, lower traffic speeds and volumes, but it can be much wider in more recently developed areas outside of the dense urban core. In virtually all cases the pavement does not take up the full width. The area “left-over” is where we plant trees.
A typical example is where a 30’ wide street sits upon a 50’ wide right-of-way. In this case, there is typically 10’ left over on either side for amenities such as sidewalks and “tree lawns”. In the same scenario without sidewalks, that 10’ of “left-over” area is indistinguishable from a private lawn, except maybe for some buried utilities indicated by objects such as water meters, gas valves, or fire hydrants.
In some cases, the rights-of way may only extend a few feet behind the curb on either side of the roadway, while on some blocks it can be 20+ feet where some future need was anticipated (like a road widening or sewer-line expansion). A good way to determine the city rights-of-way near your home is to identify utilities. For instance, if you see a water meter or utility pole then you are looking at City rights-of-way. This roadside area is where we plant street trees because they provide shade to the sidewalks/roadways and insure that the city will maintain them into the future.
If there is planting space along the City rights-of-way in your neighborhood, then you may be eligible for a new street tree. We have a tree request program where residents can request a street tree be planted in front of their home. Use our “Tree Request Form” if you would like to request a street tree.
The City’s non-profit partner, Keep Durham Beautiful, currently raises funds and coordinates volunteer opportunities to support our tree planting efforts. If you would like to contribute to our goal of maintaining and expanding the urban tree canopy, visit https://keepdurhambeautiful.org/ to make a donation or volunteer.
Another way to support our efforts is to make a donation through your water bill to our Water Into Trees Program. Your donation through this optional program will be used exclusively by our Urban Forestry Division to purchase additional trees for City streets, parks, and green spaces. For more information and to make a donation, visit https://durhamnc.gov/800/Water-Into-Trees.
We are working hard to increase our urban forest and bring the many environmental and economic benefits of street trees in our City rights-of-way to our low tree canopy neighborhoods. If you have any questions or concerns about this eight-year project, please contact Urban Forestry Supervisor Dan Hickey at [email protected] or (919) 560-4197 ext. 35219.