Friday, February 3, 2023

‘They are part of our identity’: Wrightsville Beach taking steps to preserve its live oaks

Oak trees line the streets of Wrightsville Beach, but some have been damaged and are in need of repair (Port City Daily/Michael Praats)
Oak trees line the streets of Wrightsville Beach, but some have been damaged and are in need of repair. (Port City Daily/Michael Praats)

WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH — In a wave of seemingly-new awareness of the need to protect natural resources, local governments around the region have been discussing ways to protect native trees — more specifically, the region’s live oaks.

In Wrightsville Beach, plans are in motion to preserve some of the island town’s oaks after the Board of Alderman members voiced their concerns for the state of the trees following several hurricanes.

The town has approved spending nearly $100,000 to trim a bulk of the trees on town property as well as repair and hopefully save some of the damaged trees.

“This project is being considered to protect the overall health of the tree and allow town staff to maintain the lower portion of the trimming work going forward. This trimming will also set a policy/standard on how we trim oak trees moving forward,” according to Town Manager Tim Owens in documents submitted to the Board of Aldermen.

According to Owens, the oaks are part of the town’s identity and both residents and leaders are concerned with their health and wellbeing.

Related: Increased penalty, new definitions? A first look at possible code changes to preserve live oaks

Most of the trees on the island have weathered plenty of bad weather but after hurricanes Florence and Dorian there are a few that need some help — or they could be lost forever.

One tree is pretty bad off and will need to be cabled back together, Owens said. This will hopefully protect the tree and allow it to heal — it is already split and as the risk of becoming completely devastated if the town does not intervene.

Several other trees were also damaged but not nearly as badly, he said.

Tree trimming is also part of the contract and Owens knows residents get emotional when they see people taking saws the to trees, the pruning is actually in the best interest of the residents as well as trees. Pruning can help remove damaged portions of limbs that could pose a hazard to people as well as make life easier for residents and visitors using the town’s walking loop.

A large portion of the loop is lined by these trees and their low hanging branches do pose a problem for runners as well as landscapers, Owens said.

Once the trees are limbed up, town staff will continue to prune them, but by hiring a professional company to do the initial cutting it will set the standards for the town.

When it comes to protecting the oaks, the town already has some standards in place Owens said. Both cedar trees and oaks are protected on private property, making it difficult for anyone to legally remove them.

The contract awarded to Joshua Tree of Wilmington, a certified arborist company, does not deal with every live oak on town property, but the goal would be to eventually trim and maintain all of the trees, Owens said.

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