Not cutting it: Cork city is lagging behind in tree planting 

Not cutting it: Cork city is lagging behind in tree planting 
Trees down at Centre Park Road during storms in 2018 Picture: Jim Coughlan.

CORK City is lagging far behind Dublin when it comes to tree planting.

Cork City Council plant an estimated 200 trees per year. In comparison, Dublin City Council plant over 5,000 trees each year.

South Dublin County Council has planted 4,000 trees in the past three years.

Cork Trees Trust claim the reason for this is that there is no dedicated Tree Policy in place for City Hall.

Conn Donovan, acting secretary of Cork Trees Trust, says over 2000 people have signed a petition to implement a tree policy.

“Dublin councils have tree policies. Why doesn’t Cork?” he asks.

Mr Donovan points to the lack of trees in the city centre and urban areas.

“Centre Park Road and Grand Parade are examples of this,” he said. “Trees here were damaged or knocked down. They weren’t replanted in these same spots, and in some instances where they stood was tarmacked over.

“Nano Nagle bridge is another area where this has occurred. There’s only one tree left, and they have paved over where the others stood.”

“Storm Ophelia damaged trees on Centre Park Road and they also haven’t been replaced.

Mr Donovan says while Cork City Council plant 200 trees a year, they “seem to be going into parks or green spaces.”

“We need street trees in urban areas of Cork city,” he said. 

“They make the area nicer, provide shade, act as meeting space, and can help reduce air and noise pollution.”

Mr Donovan claims that tree planting is not a priority for the council: “This is why we need a tree-planting policy. We need a defined strategy for ensuring tree planting, maintenance and protection.”

Cork Trees Trust submitted their proposal to the City Council in May, and they say they have not received a response from the executive yet.

Mr Donovan was also critical of the council’s tree pruning: “Trees in urban areas are ‘hacked’, not pruned. This opens the tree up to disease, and this starts the decline.

“Cork is supposed to be a livable city. It’s also part of the Healthy City Initiative. Part of that should be greenery.”

However, the City Council has hit back at claims that it is not doing enough in terms of tree planting.

“Recently a small number of individuals have complained about the City Council recklessly felling and pruning trees at various locations in the city,” says Stephen Scully of the City Council’s Parks Department.

“That claim has no foundation whatsoever, all inspections and tree works are carried out in accordance with best arboriculture practice and in a professional manner by qualified personnel.”

“Trees will be planted as part of the Marina Park Project, with Phase One commencing in January 2020, trees will also be planted on Centre Park Road once finish levels are determined for the South Docklands Development.

“There is a difficulty with underground services near Nano Nagle Bridge, whilst the South Terrace is already a beautiful tree-lined terrace.”

Mr Scully says that the approximate number of “dead, diseased and unsafe trees” felled in any twelve-month period is 200. However, it appears that while the council replace these trees, the total number of trees isn’t increasing.

“We do plant circa 200 trees per annum and hope to increase this further, depending on resources.”

Mr Scully went on to say that city trees are managed in the context of tree health, public safety, and proximity to properties and utilities.

“Tree works include a combination of programmed work, emergency works and response to requests. All works and requests are pre-inspected by qualified arboriculturists and works are carried out by qualified tree surgeons.”

Mr Scully says it is difficult for city trees to survive in an urban environment due to a number of factors.

“The lifespan of individual trees can vary. Individual species can be vulnerable to pests and diseases.

“Many street trees have to contend with poor soil conditions that lack nutrition and the capacity to retain or release moisture. Their root system has to navigate between a myriad of utilities of varying depths and sizes, while others have to contend with overhead cables.”

Mr Scully adds that recent extreme weather events affect Cork’s tree population.

“High winds and storms are responsible for the loss of many trees and serious damage to others during most winters,” he said. “An example from last year was the re-emergence of Dutch Elm Disease, due to the long hot dry summer, resulting in many regenerated elm trees dying during the autumn and early winter.”

Despite these challenges, Mr Scully says the city has targets in terms of greenery.

“Chapter 10 of the Cork City Development Plan 2015-2021 outlines the importance of trees and urban woodlands in the city and sets clear targets in Objective 10, for both the protection of existing trees and the continued development of the urban woodland, which includes individual street trees, tree groups and wooded areas.”

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