Dramatic pruning reinforces ‘right tree’ philosophy

The top of this streetscape silver maple tree in Latonia sports the classic V shape after being pruned several years ago to protect utility lines from being damaged.

COVINGTON, Ky. - A tree company hired by Duke Energy will be in Covington beginning Thursday to clear branches away from power lines, and Crystal Courtney - the City’s Urban Forester - is bracing for phone calls. 

“The last time they were in Covington, I was flooded with complaints. ‘Just look at what they did to my tree!’ was pretty much the gist of it,” Courtney said. “I had a lot of angry people.”
While she’s sympathetic (she’s a forester, after all), Courtney said residents should be aware that best practices for utility line-clearance pruning often require dramatic trimming - including work that leaves behind the infamous V-shaped and L-shaped trees.
“Their No. 1 goal is to protect utility lines from the trees growing around them so your electricity isn’t interrupted,” she said. “So what you see - even if it’s ugly - doesn’t necessarily violate utility pruning standards. They’re doing their job. That’s what they’re trained to do.”
However, she said she will check out any reports of excessive pruning that appear to go “above and beyond” utility line protection. Residents can e-mail her at or call (859) 292-2292.
The tree crews will be starting work in the Peaselburg neighborhood with many of the trees being targeted on Russell Street between 11th and 18th streets. Crews will then move to the Eastside neighborhood, working from East Fourth to East 16th streets, with the majority of the trees impacted along Scott Boulevard and Greenup Street.
The work will take about a month.
Duke says it will notify residents about parking restrictions via door hangers, phone calls, postcards and/or visits.
Earlier this year, Duke’s contractor worked in the Licking-Riverside, Old Seminary Square, and MainStrasse Village areas.
Courtney said the whole scenario reinforces the need for planting trees in the streetscape that fit.
“It’s why you plant the right tree in the right place,” she said. “Because somebody didn’t follow that philosophy 50 years ago, they’re having to come in and do major cuts.”
Courtney has arranged for a Duke representative to give a public presentation about its utility line clearance and vegetation management programs. The goal is to educate residents about how and why utility pruning is conducted, what Duke's operations look like, and how to avoid these dramatic pruning practices in the future.
The presentation will be 6 p.m.-7 p.m. Oct. 23 at the Kenton County Library in Covington, in the BB&T Room.
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