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Natural resources class evaluates trees

Class grades tree
David McCullough's class graded trees on the Fourth Street Corridor. - Emily Novotny/TRUMPET

Students have created a tree grading scale that the Waverly Public Works Department will use when they assess trees in making improvements to sidewalks and streets in Waverly’s Fourth Street Corridor.

The condition and value of trees were evaluated Sept. 21 with the help of David McCullough’s Conservation of Natural Resources class.

The grading scale takes into account location of the trees to the streets, buildings or utility lines, species, age, desirable or undesirable traits, sentimental value, relation to the ecosystem and overall health and condition.

“One of the things I learned is that Waverly is very environmentally conscious, and they are trying to be proactive in dealing with their property,” John Kleppe said.

City Engineer, Mike Cherry, contacted McCullough, a friend, about creating a grading system for the trees on Fourth Street between Dairy Queen and Burger King.

Cherry said the system is not intended for condemnation of trees, but to identify and evaluate their health. This way, when improvements to the area are made, the city has an idea in advance where trimming needs to be done and where construction can take place, he said.

Dick Crayne, city administrator, said Waverly has contracted with an engineering firm to do a preliminary study on the Fourth Street Corridor. He said the area has a lot of traffic and a large number of car accidents.

“Widening the street is an option,” Crayne said, which would mean possibly removing some trees along the street. “The City Council is questioning whether the street is truly a priority for the near future.”

Crayne said no proposals for construction have been made yet.

The engineering study will be completed in about three months and the council will use this information to create plans for the corridor, Crayne said.

Cherry said the city is working toward improving traffic safety and pedestrian walkways, and evaluating the trees in this area is part of these improvements.

McCullough said residents often have sentimental attachments to trees near their homes, but they are on public property and may be causing a visual block on the street or leaving debris on cars.

“Even though people can use public easements to grow trees, the city still has the right to manipulate that area,” McCullough said.

The class will be creating a report that includes the addresses of the trees, their grade and the reasoning behind their grade.

“I think that this project will help make Waverly look cleaner and better cared for,” Kleppe said.

“It was a teachable moment, so I decided to bring it into the classroom,” McCullough said. “I could have done this all myself, but I figured this is something that helps us all learn.”

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