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City’s Urban Forest Struggles in Summer Heat

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In the midst of the summer’s dry spell, the city’s Department of Public Works is asking for help to stave off the death of nearly 2,000 newly planted trees. For 19 river birches planted along the sidewalk between Spring Street and the Robert E. Lee Bridge, it’s already too late.

Each tree appears lifeless — showing brown leaves or naked branches — even as the trees on the other side of Belvidere appear fine. Public Works spokeswoman Sharon North says they cost $256 apiece, but they are under warranty and will be replaced this fall.

The city installed the trees as part of its urban forestry initiative, which aims to plant around 2,000 a year. She says that contractors planted this year’s batch between November and April.

While North says the cause of death of the Belvidere batch wasn’t known, she says other trees are wilting without adequate rain. The contractor in charge of watering them is struggling to keep up.

“The hope is we’ll get enough to sustain all of it,” North says, “but this year it’s just not working out.”

The city issued a plea to residents in July asking for help watering the trees, and for volunteers for its Adopt-a-Tree program. North says 12 applications have come in so far.

Blake Rao, on a break from her job at Afton Chemical, says she noticed the birches dying two months ago. She wishes the city had acted sooner.

“It’s a shame,” Rao says.

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