Tree care becomes full-time job for Delaware city arborist Casey McCarty

Paul Comstock
ThisWeek
Delaware city arborist Casey McCarty stands among rubber trees and other plants in the city greenhouse at the city's Parks & Rereation and Public Works facilities, 440 E. William St. The potted rubber trees are placed near the city splash pad off South Houk Road in the summers, McCarty said.

CORRECTION: Because of a reporting error, the print and earlier online version of this story gave the wrong first name for Doug Richmond. 

Delaware's trees do more than just look nice, said Casey McCarty, the city's new arborist.

Some trees are worth up to $30,000, a price that doesn't have much to do with the wood they contain, he said.

Instead, he said, that dollar amount can be calculated based on the tree's economic and environmental value.

For example, a tree that provides enough shade to a house could reduce the building's summer cooling costs by $150 a month, and that's just for starters, McCarty said.

Trees also can reduce heating costs by blocking wind during the winter. They can prevent stormwater runoff into rivers. They absorb air pollution and increase property value and can slow motorists who drive past them, he said. 

McCarty estimates more than 20,000 trees sit on city-owned property in Delaware, and he's the point man on ensuring they're taken care of.

Maintenance can have long-term effects on a tree's viability and condition, he said.

If a tree receives about $200 worth of maintenance in its first 15 years, that could ensure the tree will live more than 100 years, he said.

Without that maintenance, he said, a tree could within 85 years evolve into a monstrous mess that could cost $3,000 to prune properly.

Some trees do a lot of hard work, McCarty said.

Tress planted along streets, he said, "are in for a pretty hard life. They get the heat from the asphalt, the heat from the sidewalk, constant soil compaction, herbicide damage from getting yard treatments and then the sun beating down on top of them."

A foundation of tree care is judicious pruning, he said, adding that overpruning can kill a tree faster than anything else.

Trees also need to be checked to make sure they're in good shape. A damaged tree can't heal itself, he said. If a tree sustains a break from storm damage or decay, it seals off the damage by growing over it, he said.

As an arborist, McCarty is responsible for the long-term care and management of city trees on city property or in city rights of way, said city community-affairs coordinator Lee Yoakum.

“The city of Delaware has always recognized the tangible benefits that trees provide in the urban environment,” city parks and natural-resources director Ted Miller said. “Healthy trees reduce air and noise pollution, provide energy-saving shade and cooling, furnish habitat for wildlife, enhance aesthetics and property values and are an important contributor to community image, pride and quality of life.”

Yoakum said McCarty's duties include overseeing a program that involves planting, pruning, protecting and removing public trees and vegetation.

McCarty also will interact with the community through the city’s shade-tree committee and other agencies on such topics as forestry, ecology, hydrology, energy and stormwater control, Yoakum said. 

"Casey has started an in-house training seminar for members of our own traffic-maintenance division staff, who routinely deal with traffic-sign and -signal visibility issues with trees and shrubs. He wants to make sure they are educated when it comes to proper pruning practices," Yoakum said.

McCarty said he also plans to record videos on tree care and other tips and post the videos on the city's social-media accounts.

Another goal, he said, is to develop a forestry-management plan. How frequently trees need to be pruned – which largely is confined to the lower branches – will depend on tree species, which have different growth rates, he said.

Maple trees are common throughout the city, he said. Other species include types of locust, elm, linden and oak. The city is working to diversify its species of trees, he said, to limit damage in case a disease or insect attacks a particular species.

If a tree on private property falls onto a sidewalk or street during a storm, city crews will remove it, McCarty said.

Under Ohio law, responsibility for a fallen tree depends on where it lands, not where it grew, he said.

As a result, if a tree in a yard falls onto a neighbor's property, cleaning it up is the neighbor's problem, he said, a fact which has surprised some people when it occurs.

"That's a pretty common problem, actually," McCarty said.

Yoakum said McCarty, who became the arborist in late September, succeeds Doug Richmond, who now is a code-enforcement officer with the city's planning and community-development department.

McCarty said before he became the city's arborist, he worked for a tree company that did contract work with the city and was familiar with the arborist's job.

Yoakum said Casey will receive a salary of $45,406 annually. Benefits include medical and dental insurance, life insurance, paid vacation, sick leave and tuition reimbursement.

McCarty and his wife, Ashlee, are the parents of a daughter and six sons. 

Every year since 1981, Yoakum said, Delaware has been recognized as a Tree City USA by the National Arbor Foundation.

For more on the economic value of trees, go to chadwickarboretum.osu.edu/research-and-education/why-trees-matter.

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