Trees on decline in Las Vegas city parks

-A A +A
By David Giuliani

The number and overall health of trees in city parks is declining, and something must be done about it, a tree advocate told the City Council last week.

The Las Vegas Tree Board has rated 36 percent of trees in all city parks but South Pacific as poor. Eight percent of trees at South Pacific were rated poor.

Additionally, the board has found that anywhere from 10 to 45 percent of trees in any individual park would benefit from pruning.

The board reports that tree loss since 2000 has ranged from none at South Pacific to 22 percent in Lincoln Park. Most of the reduction was because of the board’s recommendation to remove hazardous trees.

The board also stated in its report that it has found increasing indications of mechanical damage from mowers and string trimmers to trees in all parks — Plaza, Carnegie Library, Lincoln and South Pacific.

The parks are dominated by aging American and Siberian elms, the health of which continue to decline.

John Spencer of the Tree Board told the council that many of the trees are well more than 100 years old and are due to die in the coming years.

“They get old just like the rest of us; they get sick and die,” he said.

He also noted that Siberian elms are considered an invasive species and that Albuquerque banned their planting in the mid-1990s.

The board is recommending that trees identified as hazards be removed as soon as possible because they pose a risk to residents. They should be replaced with appropriate species immediately following removal, the board says. The group is advising the city to give public notice of tree removal efforts because residents may misunderstand the reasons.

The board also suggests that the city plant trees near older ones that are expected to die in the coming years. “This approach will provide continuity in the tree cover in those parks,” the board’s report states.

To prevent mechanical damage, the board recommends using a combination of tree guards and mulch at the base of trees, as well as staff training.

Spencer said the decline in the number and overall health of trees is happening despite the best efforts of the parks and public works departments.

“We need to move forward with a tree replacement strategy,” he said.

Councilwoman Diane Moore, who belongs to the tree board, urged the city to go along with the recommendations.

“I’m sure we can support this,” she said.