When the summer heat arrives in a couple of months, visitors to downtown Covington will have a little bit of relief from the hot sun. The city is putting new trees in the ground throughout the square and adjacent streets and plans to have all 23 planted this month baring any weather delays.
The project, started last year, includes new root wells, soil, mulch and granite pavers as edging and Hightower willow oak trees. Covington city forester Kevin Sorrow said the trees replaced ones dug up last year and will give the city a more uniformed look. According to Sorrow, the old trees were causing problems to sidewalks, streetlights and even buildings and some were dying from disease.
“There were a few different species that were planted over the years. A lot of them were sugar maples, and some of them were having problems from disease,” Sorrow said. “We also had a lot of problems with the limbs and the leaves and the root systems. The branches and leaves on some of the trees were encroaching on the street lamps and actually wrapping around them.”
According to Sorrow, the project cost the city approximately $87,000. The majority of that went into each root well — “about $2,000 each,” he said and the trees themselves were about $300 apiece.
“I am really pleased with the trees we got. There are actually better than I expected, so I am really pleased,” Sorrow said.
Hightower willow oaks can reach heights up to 50 feet with a canopy roughly half the individual tree’s height. The ones planted Thursday are in the 4-5-inch in diameter range at the base and are less than 20 feet in height right now. With the design of the root wells, which include plastic root barriers, the trees are not expected to grow that high. Instead they should reach 30-35 feet in height according to Landscapes Concepts owner’s Rodney Howell.
The trees also will have drip irrigation systems in case of extended periods of dry weather. Howell said the trees are locally grown and that will help aid the acclimation. He added now is the ideal time to plant new trees.
“Late fall and early spring are the best time to plant these trees,” Howell said. “We try and get trees from the area because they’re already used to the climate. These here are good, hearty trees that have a strong root system and should do very well. They’re a good street tree.”
Howell said the trees will offer shade as early as next month when the foliage blooms, and as they grow, the canopy will rise and passing under them will not be an issue for walkers.
Sorrow said the decision to replace the trees came down to maintenance and addressing some with failing health. The city chose Hightower willow oaks because of their relative low maintenance and heartiness. But there still will be upkeep involved as Sorrow said, no tree is maintenance free.
“They should be easy to prune and they should be a pretty good size but that’s what we want,” he said. “It’s a good tree for the square. Any tree you put in there with a canopy will have some maintenance issue. The benefits of having the trees outweigh the maintenance costs.”