City Hall Blog (archived)

Taking care of our historic trees on North Union Street

by David Ratchford, Buildings and Grounds Director

Over the past five years, the City has engaged the services a professional arborist to conduct assessments of the trees growing in the planting strips along North Union Street. The arborist has made a series of preservation recommendations including extensive tree feeding, insect treatments, and pruning and cabling work intended to stabilize the trees. Unfortunately, there are seven trees that have not responded to any of the preservation efforts, and have reached a point where they pose a threat to cars, homes, and pedestrians. We have no choice but to cut these trees down.

The major problem facing these trees and all of the others: The planting strip is not large enough to support the growth of trees this large. Each one of these trees have multiple problems; even though some of them look like nice, full trees, they have deteriorated internally and do not have enough foliage to support the tree anymore. So in effect, the trees are dying slowly.

Because the City is very concerned about preserving the tree canopy over North Union Street, staff met with the Homeowners of Historic Union Street in November, and proposed that the City purchase North American elm trees to replace the trees that have to be cut.

We cannot plant these trees back in the planting strip and expect them to really be able to do well. So, the Historic Union Street neighborhood group is working on securing permission to plant these trees in the yards of the residents, at locations selected by the arborist. The City will supply the tree, and the neighborhood group will be responsible for hiring a nursery to plant and maintain these trees for one year.

Originally, all of the North Union trees were elm trees. Then, we lost those elm trees in the big Dutch elm disease outbreak, sometime around the turn of the last century. These new trees are resistant to the Dutch elm disease, and to elm blight. We will plant Cabarrus County native stock white dogwood trees in the planting strip, as close to the removed tree locations as practical. Finally, we will remove a few crepe myrtles that were planted in the planting strip after Hurricane Hugo that have not done well.

Staff has met both individually with each homeowner and with the neighborhood group to discuss the plans. In addition, the City submitted the project to the Historic Preservation Commission, and received a certificate of appropriateness. Work will proceed as follows:

  • Cutting will start Tuesday July 6, and finish, weather permitting, by Wednesday July 14. Crews will grind the stumps, remove the debris, and fill in the holes with dirt.

  • The new North American elms and dogwoods will be planted in October.

If you have any questions about this process please contact David Ratchford, Buildings and Grounds Director, at or 704-920-5380.