Tree limb removal efforts underway

City has marked over 400 trees for trimming

T-R PHOTO BY ADAM SODDERS - Hundreds of trees around the tornado damage area in Marshalltown have been marked with spray-painted numbers. City officials said Thursday that the numbers are being used to keep track of trees with branches that need to be trimmed to keep right-of-ways and sidewalks safe and clear. They do not signify that a tree will be removed.

One of the striking scenes in Marshalltown since the July 19 tornado is the lack of tree canopy in damaged areas, leaving large tree limbs barely hanging above city streets and walkways.

City officials are combatting the issue and have been numbering trees with spray paint, organizing a plan of attack to trim back the branches.

“Those are trees that we evaluated that have limbs that are precariously leaning over the right of way or the sidewalk, over the terrace and sometimes private trees that have long limbs that go over those same areas,” said Joel Chandler of Marshalltown Public Works, who is helping lead the effort to mark the trees for trimming. “They’re called ‘tree hangers,’ where they’re either detached and hung up or partially detached — they’ll get cut off eventually.”

The markings are clear: each tree with limbs deemed risky is being numbered in hot pink spray paint. The numbers have an important purpose.

“We’re making a spreadsheet and giving it to the street department and the parks (and recreation) department and they’re going around and assessing how serious the trees are, if there are branches that could potentially hurt somebody or fall into the street or anything,” said public works administrative assistant Janelle Reeder. “They’re not being removed, it’s just trimming.”

Despite the effort being focused on branch removal, Reeder said the department has received many concerned phone calls from people who think marked trees will be removed. She reiterated that is not the case.

Chandler said there were 426 marked trees as of Thursday afternoon. He said city workers began the effort on State Street and went by house number, but soon changed their strategy for marking and recording trees.

“That was kind of a learning curve for us,” Chandler said of using house numbers to mark trees. “We abandoned that and just went to a straight numerical system.”

Additionally, he said trees that are marked for trimming have branches at least two inches in diameter. Trees with limbs smaller than that will not be marked for work, Chandler said.

For more information on handling tree damage, call the public works department at (641) 754-5734 or visit https://www.marshalltown-ia.gov/324/Public-Works

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Contact Adam Sodders at

(641) 753-6611 or asodders@timesrepublican.com