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Another Perspective - Pruning at parks set to begin

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The Las Vegas Tree Board is a volunteer committee of the city of Las Vegas.

Its members include forestry professionals and interested citizens whose mission is to help Las Vegas plan, plant and protect its community forest.

We have three major goals: 1. To increase public safety by removing hazardous trees and limbs; 2. To preserve the legacy of trees planted by our ancestors by pruning to increase vigor and lengthen tree lives and 3. To make our city more beautiful for its citizens and visitors.

During Governor Clyde Tingley’s tenure (1934-1938), Siberian Elm seedlings were given to many New Mexico cities, partly to reduce the catastrophic devastation of the dust bowl. In Las Vegas, about 75 percent of the urban forest consists of Siberian Elm. Siberian Elms’s have brittle and weak branches that break in wind and snow. Their seeds grow easily in our soil and their roots get into our water and sewer lines and into building foundations. Siberian Elms are now on the New Mexico Noxious Weed List.

Most of these trees are over 70 years old and were never properly pruned according to standards of healthy tree care. As a result, many have been topped. Topping has caused improper branching, making the trees even weaker.

We have found several park trees which have hollow rotted branches and trunks. The city has had neither money, trained staff nor equipment to prune trees or remove hazards. In the last two years the Tree Board and its partners have been successful in competing for grant funds from the New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department. The Tree Board inventoried Plaza, South Pacific, Keyes, Lincoln and Carnegie Parks and listed the trees in order to identify hazard reduction needs; we received an Urban Forestry Assistance Program grant to remove the most dangerous hazards and plant new trees. We were awarded a grant of $25,000, the maximum possible, which was matched by in-kind and cash support from the city of Las Vegas, Tierra y Montes Soil and Water Conservation District and citizen donations. This is perhaps the first time professional pruning had been done with a certified company arborist on site. A Tree Board member was also present at all times when the pruning and removal were done.

We planted renewal trees in keeping with the  historic design of the parks. The Parks Division of the city has extended the effluent system to water the parks and the new trees.

In 2013 we again applied and again were awarded $25,000 to continue pruning and removal of hazardous trees and limbs in Plaza and Carnegie Parks. The work should begin Monday at the Plaza Park. Including matching funds, over $100,000 in tree-related work will have been accomplished in these two years.     
Another major project of 2012 was the completion of most of the urban forest planting in Marrujo Park. This city park was a barren strip of land situated on Commerce St., below the entrance ramp to Interstate 25. Stage I involved planting a windbreak of 55 Rocky Mountain Junipers. Stage II, completed in 2012, involved making a french drain, installing effluent drip irrigation, and planting about 90 Poplars and Lilacs along the west wall.

This was one of the greatest number of park trees planted since Gov. Tingley gave out Siberian Elms to the City in the 1930s. Stage II could not have been completed without the help of our generous partners: city of Las Vegas, Las Vegas City Parks Division, New Mexico Department of Transportation, Tierra y Montes Soil and Water Conservation District, New Mexico State Forestry Division, John T. Harrington Forestry Research Center at Mora (New Mexico State University), PNM, Community 1st Bank and citizen volunteers.

The efforts of the Tree Board have earned for Las Vegas Tree City USA certification for the last 14 years and have earned two special growth awards from the National Arbor Day Foundation. The celebration of Arbor Day will take place at 4 p.m. Friday, April 26 at Plaza park. A new park tree will be planted.

Please come and join us.

John Spencer is chairman of the city of Las Vegas Tree Board. He may be reached at spencers@newmexico.com