The Washtenaw County Road Commission wants to talk trees

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Trees are important to many in Washtenaw County and the road commission knows it. That’s why it is seeking input from those they serve.

The Washtenaw County Road Commission is now reaching out to county residents and the different municipalities to get their feedback on trees.

A letter from WCRC’s Managing Director Sheryl Soderholm Siddall was presented during the Nov. 17, Webster Township Board meeting to give the board and public an idea as to what the road commission is wanting help with.

Webster Township Supervisor John Kingsley said the WCRC is seeking input on the draft of a tree policy and the township board of trustees will probably weigh in on it next month.

In her letter, Soderholm Siddall said, “We know trees are important to the people of Washtenaw County. That’s why we are asking for your feedback on a draft Tree Policy proposed by the WCRC Board. This policy is meant to provide clear direction to my staff when it comes to working with trees in the road right-of-way.”

According to the WCRC, it was in 2019, when WCRC’s board directed staff to create a comprehensive tree policy to clarify current practices and provide clear guidance regarding trees in the road right-of-way.

“The topics of trees and general environmental stewardship were discussed at multiple virtual WCRC working sessions this fall,” the WCRC said.

The policy is just in the drafted phase, which means feedback is important to shape its final version.

Under the intent section of the drafted policy it says, “The Washtenaw County Road Commission (WCRC) has a statutory duty to maintain a county road system that is reasonably safe and convenient for public travel. While carrying out this duty, either through the course of maintenance activities, improving roadside safety or constructing road improvements, sometimes trees must be trimmed or removed by WCRC staff, its contractors, or third parties under permit. The intent of this policy is to provide guidance to staff making decisions regarding necessary tree removals and trimming while acknowledging the importance of trees to the Washtenaw County community.”

For some background, the policy draft says:

“The road right-of-way serves many purposes for road users. The roadside provides space to safely escape potential crashes or collisions, improves sight distances, offers space for maintenance activities such as snow removal and snow storage, provides an area that allows for proper road drainage and creates a sense of openness that contributes to driving ease and freedom from strain.

“The roadside is also a common location for trees. Many of Washtenaw County’s roads are valued for their tree-lined beauty and environmental features. While trees are community assets for these reasons, they are also the single most often-struck fixed objects along the roadside. Crashes involving fixed objects often result in serious injuries or fatalities.

“Roadside trees frequently have branches that grow over the roadway and may interfere with or cause damage to large vehicles such as school buses, fire trucks and ambulances, garbage, and delivery trucks, farm equipment and snowplows. These trees also may shade the road surface which can create areas for moisture to collect on the roadway leading to potentially icy road conditions and potholes. Tree trimming allows for air circulation and sunshine to access the roadway, leading to safer conditions and a longer lasting facility.

“The sometimes-competing interests of roadside safety and tree preservation must be taken into consideration and balanced as WCRC fulfills its statutory obligations and serves the traveling public in Washtenaw County.”

The WCRC said this draft was developed after consulting staff and legal counsel, reviewing existing practices, and surveying other road agencies, townships and cities.

There are three ways to provide comment on this draft:

  1. Click here to complete an online comment form.
  2. Attend a virtual public meeting on December 3 at 6:30 p.m. Click here to join the meeting.
  3. Mail comments to WCRC, RE: Draft Tree Policy, 555 N. Zeeb Road, Ann Arbor, MI 48103

Please submit all comments by Friday, December 18, 2020.

To see the draft, go to https://www.wcroads.org/seeking-public-comment-draft-tree-policy/.

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