GR tapping private contractors to clear dangerous trees

Grand Rapids city crews work to clear trees on public rights of way. (Oct. 13, 2017)


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — In just a few weeks, Grand Rapid city officials hope to have much-needed reinforcements on board to deal with trees on public rights of way that may pose a danger to the public.

Earlier this year, an inventory of trees along city streets, in city parks and other public spaces showed 85 percent of trees along city streets, in city parks and other public spaces are in good shape.

But deferred maintenance over the years had left about 1,500 trees that needed to be chopped down still standing, like the windswept tree that dropped a large branch onto a woman and her infant in Riverside Park in May.

Another 1,500 trees were in desperate need of trimming.

One of those trees is located near Virginia Kelley’s northeast side home. When it started dropping limbs, she picked up the phone and called the city.

“They were very quick, very nice, (and) very courteous to come out just as soon as I called,” Kelley said.

That response is part of a major effort to whittle down Grand Rapids’ dangerous tree problem.

“They’re doing a good job,” Kelley added. “I mean, they have a lot of work… a lot of work.”

City forestry crews have been trying to get a handle on the problem. They’ve removed 58 trees and pruned another 68 since the summer began.

In September, the city commission approved spending $2.4 million to hire outside contractors for the work. Those private contractor bids are due by Oct. 25.

“I’ve been getting calls from contractors, looking at trees, asking questions- clarification questions,” said Grand Rapids Parks Superintendent Joe Sulak.

The work is set to begin in November and run through next April.

“We’re looking at around 15 removals a day. So the amount of crews just depends on how many people we have on the ground,” Sulak said.

That’s phase one: the catch-up part of the plan.

The city’s long-range goal is to avoid any future backlogs.

“So if we can get to a point where every tree is being addressed in a 5- to 8- to 10-year period, and we do that for the life of the tree, it will save us a lot of costs in the long run,” Sulak explained.

You can follow the progress of the city’s efforts on their website.