By – Patrick George 

Click here for the backstory of this article. Hoping there’s no paywall for you.
Vermont Ave. tree removal: No change in nearly $1M West Asheville sidewalk repair project

The above story is a classic remake of the “The road to Hell” series.  Some 80+ years ago the pioneers that settled wild West Asheville decided to create a tree lined avenue to mimic civilization in other parts of the world.  In their creative wisdom, they decided to use native Sugar, Red & Silver Maple trees to populate the Avenue. The photos below show  the artifacts of that effort and the results today:  Trip City.  Totally nonfunctional for most walkers and strollers.

The city has first proposed to remove ALL the offending trees to provide unimpeded mountain views and easier access for baby and canine-filled strollers.  A noble cause indeed!  Second scenario: they are also considering leaving 15+ trees that are still reasonably healthy although the sidewalk repair remains an issue and concern.   Sounds like a great idea particularly if they’re replanting where the ones taken down were located. That would allow for some islands of summer shade while establishing the future canopy.  The problems with the location are compounded by the  ever present power lines running along the street that need for the trees to be pruned regularly.

 The saying caveat in the industry is “Right tree in the right place”. They didn’t have that saying back when the original trees were planted. Hence the good intentions gone bad with a nod to the “Road to Hell” theme.  

Below is an example of what another NC town, Davidson did instead of damaging and removing their pesky champion trees while upgrading their sidewalks.  By allowing a “deck” solution to get the sidewalks past the trees they also opened up room for expansion of the root systems that will allow the trees to continue to grow while other newly planted trees have a chance to establish.  It’s not a perfect solution but it sure beats clear cutting an urban forest and creates root space that didn’t exist before.  You can see what the roots from the trees on Vermont Avenue had to do to survive up till now.  Removing the existing sidewalks and CAREFULLY installing the “ramped” boardwalks around the trunks of the tree opens up more opportunities for root growth and tree establishment. 

I just hope someone will share these thoughts with photos and ideas to the AVL Urban Forestry Board and perhaps the street maintenance.  Just saying!

Patrick George, Tree Steward and older than most urban trees.