Volunteers with Trees for Woolwich are trying to raise awareness that many trees in the township are being harmed or killed due to improper string trimming.
Trees for Woolwich, a group of professionals and volunteers who work to increase tree cover in the municipality, submitted a report to the township detailing the nearly 240 trees in 13 surveyed township parks that were found dead or fatally injured due to damage from string trimmers, also known as whipper snippers.
An employee of landscaping company Earthscape, Elmira’s Kaden Martin, first noticed the injuries to some trees in a park near his house due to improper trimming.
He let company owner Mark Schwarz know. Schwarz and his colleagues at Trees for Woolwich conducted the survey.
The group surveyed deciduous trees from one to nine inches at breast height, which is the size and type of tree most susceptible to string trimming damage. Of these trees, almost half of them were dead or would die from their injuries.
“It’s an easily fixable problem,” said Schwarz. “Don’t trim.”
Trees for Woolwich volunteers say that township staff communicated with them in May to say string trimming around public trees would be suspended for the summer of 2022 and that other steps, such as applying guards to the trees and mulching, would eventually be taken.
“The township can confirm that past turf maintenance practices have impacted the health of trees on township properties,” said Thomas van der Hoff, Woolwich’s manager of operations and projects.
Van der Hoff said that the council directed staff to stop trimming in May, and maintenance staff and contractors were directed to stop trimming. Mulch and tree guards will also be applied to trees.
Volunteers with the organization continue to actively and regularly survey the township’s parks. They say string trimming has not stopped, and trees continue to be harmed.
“We’re going to keep working at (this problem) until it’s solved,” said Schwarz.
“The township is working closely with our contractors and staff, implementing the suspension of string trimming of unguarded trees or trees that are not mulched. We are also working in conjunction with our contractor to increase the number of trees receiving tree guards in 2022,” said van der Hoff.
A string trimmer can damage a tree by cutting into the bark and harming the phloem layer just beneath it. This layer is where a tree transports nutrients from its leaves to the rest of the tree. This layer is delicate, and if damaged severely, the tree will starve.
After trees reach a diameter of 10 to 11 inches at breast height, they are less susceptible to string trimmer damage, but smaller trees can be killed or severely harmed with even one incident. Repeated string trimmer damage as the tree grows will result in a shorter life span.
Dying trees had more than 70 per cent of the trunk circumference debarked, critical trees between 30 and 70 per cent and healthy trees had less than 30 per cent of the circumference debarked.
The solution is to add a ring of mulch around the tree to stop grass from growing, or add a plastic or cage-like protection around the base of the tree. Alternatively, string trimming near the trees can simply be stopped.
Van der Hoff says that string trimming around trees will resume once mulch and guards have been put in place around small and medium-sized trees.