SAFETY HARBOR — Nearly 60 trees in city parks and rights of way are in such poor shape, they'll have to come down, an inspection has found.
In May, thanks to a $15,000 grant from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Safety Harbor conducted a two-week study of the city's 3,514 publicly owned trees.
Arborists collected data related to tree species, size and maintenance needs.
Overall, the city's inventory is healthy. However, 59 trees near facilities, roads and sidewalks "pose a threat to public safety" and have to be removed over the next six months, city spokesman Brad Purdy said.
"There was a tree in the back of City Hall that was removed recently and there was a tree in the front that was hollow in the middle and filled with bees," he said. "That's the kind of example that we're trying to avoid. We don't want a tree to get to that point."
Ten of the trees are at the Marshall Street Park, nine are at the Safety Harbor City Park, four are at the North City Park and three are at the Safety Harbor Museum. The rest are scattered throughout the city.
"Now that this inventory has been done," Purdy said, "we will be more efficient in keeping up with the trees.
"We'll be able to look at the inventory and say, 'Okay, three years ago, the tree wasn't looking too good. Maybe we need to go back out there and take another look.' "
Before the grant, Safety Harbor had never conducted a survey like this, said community development director Matt McLachlan.
In an effort to be more proactive rather than reactive, the city applied for the Urban and Community Forestry grant in April 2009. The application was approved two months later.
The grant will not pay for the tree removal. City public works employees will take care of that.
ArborPro, a professional urban forest assessment company, evaluated Safety Harbor's inventory.
In addition to the 59 slated for removal, the survey found additional unhealthy trees. But because they are in the middle of heavily wooded areas and away from places "where people would normally be," Purdy said they will not be removed.
"We'll just let nature take its course with those," he said.
Rodney Thrash can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 445-4167.