Water Oaks have long been one of the most dominant tree species in Athens which is attributable to its prolific acorn production, rapid growth rate, and adaptability to poor growing conditions. Aggressive planting programs in the first two decades of the 20th century also helped Water Oaks establish a firm place in the Athens Urban landscape.
Water Oak is located in Wilcox Triangle in Five Points in Athens. Wilcox Triangle is a small park area that New Urban Forestry adopted — we help care for the trees in this green space.
Another view of the Wilcox Triangle Water Oak. While it is not a Champion Tree, it is one of the larger Water Oaks in the county.
By Jessie McClellan
A historic cemetery sits just on the edge of the campus of The University of Georgia with an entrance across from Sanford Stadium. Tucked away, many drive past daily without ever having stepped foot in this park-like resting place. The Oconee Hill Cemetery was added to the National Register of Historic Places List in 2013 in the areas of Architecture, Art, Landscape Architecture, Community Planning and Development, Ethnic Heritage: Black, Ethnic Heritage: Jewish, Engineering, and remains a grand example of the landscape architecture style of the 19th century.
The land for Oconee Hill Cemetery was purchased in 1855, complete with many graves that predate the opening of the cemetery. Gravesites were created across the campus before the opening, which highlighted the need for a public cemetery. The original 17 acres were purchased for $1000, but the site quickly expanded in 1898 to include an additional 82 acres. Many notable people are interred at Oconee Hill, including several former UGA presidents, governors, aviation pioneer Ben Epps, and Ricky Wilson, guitarist of the B-52’s.
One of the notable features of the cemetery is the landscape architecture, as recognized in the National Register. It was originally designed by a member of the UGA faculty, James Camak, and features a park-like setting that is reminiscent of botanical gardens and arboretums. Oconee Hill’s architecture demonstrates styles consistent with the features of the Rural Cemetery Movement of the time. Unfortunately, little has been done over the years to preserve the trees and landscape.
A group of community members formed the Friends of the Oconee Hill Cemetery in 1999. One of their major accomplishments, among many others, includes acquiring federal grant funding from the Historic Preservation Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (with the help of Athens-Clarke County) for the management of the trees on the property. This grant funding, which is matched by donations by the friends group and others, will allow for Phase Two of a project to preserve and protect the trees on the grounds and replace trees that have been removed.
Phase 1: a tree Inventory, completed in 2015, was also grant-funded. The inventory identified 40 species of trees of 563 trees inventoried with an average diameter of 20 inches. This does not include the forest on the periphery which averages 127 trees per acre. The inventory found that many of the trees had been poorly pruned and/or were diseased. It also determined many invasive species on the property, including English ivy and privet.
Work was completed in early 2017 on the tree maintenance plan for the burial ground. Phase 2 prioritizes high risk issues that could cause damage to existing markers. This phase involved the removal of dead and hazardous trees and trees with dead limbs, along with reducing the risk of dead limb failures. These projects will help to preserve some of the mature canopy throughout the grounds. To meet inventory recommendations, the invasive plants must also be removed so that native species will be allowed to thrive.
This urban forest is a vital asset to the Athens community. The management of the trees is essential to preserving this historic burial ground, as well as allowing for future interments, as it is still an active cemetery. New Urban Forestry is honored to be a part of the continued efforts to maintain this historic landmark.
For more information on The Oconee Hill Cemetery, please visit the official website or see Oconee Hill Cemetary of Athens, Georgia, Volume I, written by Charlotte Marshall. See the video for a more in depth look.
This preservation project has been financed in part with Federal funds from the National Park Service, U.S. Department of Interior, through the historic Preservation Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. However, the contents, opinions, and recommendations expressed in this project do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Department of the Interior or the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, nor does the mention of trade names, commercial products or consultants constitute endorsement or recommendation by these agencies. This program receives Federal financial assistance for identification and protection of historic properties. Under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the Age Discrimination Act of 1975, as amended, the U.S. Department of Interior prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, gender or disability in its federally assisted programs. If you believe you have been discriminated against in any program, activity , or facility as described above, or if you desire further information, please write to: Office for Equal opportunity, National Park Service, 1849 C Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20240.
The Lyndon House Willow Oak is set to be removed at the end of the month.
The Athens Clarke County Community Tree Council is responsible for, among other things, designating Landmark and Champion trees throughout the county. (landmark trees from tree ordinance):
Criteria for designation. Landmark trees shall be healthy trees that meet one or more of the following criteria:
- Age greater than 50 years as determined by planting records or the written opinion of an arborist, the Athens-Clarke County Arborist, or the community forester.
- Large canopy trees greater than 36 inches dbh, medium canopy trees greater than 24 inches dbh, and small canopy trees greater than 12 inches dbh.
- National, state, or Athens-Clarke County champion trees.
- Unique or rare species.
- Association with a documented historic event, person, or community landmark.
- Trees planted for Arbor Day celebrations and other community-wide public celebrations.
- Trees planted in honor or memory of an individual or an event.
- Trees belonging to a significant cross-property or neighborhood-wide planting that affect the greater landscape beyond the property on which they grow.
One notable Landmark and Champion tree is the majestic Willow Oak that stands in front of the Lyndon House on the edge of downtown Athens. This tree, honored with champion tree status in 1999 at the ribbon cutting of the Lyndon House arts center is being removed at the end of this month. Didi Dunphy, program supervisor at the Lyndon House and Roger Cauthen, Landscape Management Division Administrator for Athens Clarke County recently discussed the decision to remove the tree as well as some of the plans for the wood and the campus of the Arts Center.
Determining the exact age of the tree has proven to be rather difficult. There is speculation that the tree dates back to the 1850’s. Didi and Roger help explain:
“My look into it for photographic evidence only went back to the 70’s, where I could distinguish that tree in a landscape, and that was at the beginning of the arts facility being in our historic house museum. However, there has been discussions that it could be as old or potentially as close to as old as the house, but we really won’t know until it has fallen and with the hopes that the rings will be distinguishable,” said Didi
Roger elaborates, “As long as I have been witnessing the tree, since 1980, it’s been in a similar size and form with the fluted trunk. So when I first began to observe the tree and be a part of the local government, it was regarded even then as a significant tree.”
The decision to remove the tree was not altogether unexpected.
“I’ve been in place as the supervisor for a year and a half now. At the time, Roger came over, very early on and told me that several arborists had been looking at it and that it looked like it was entering the end of its life cycle and I had thought maybe 3 years, but it’s accelerated. And it’s based on a number of dead, large dead branches, that for me as a facility with a lot of people and youth has become hazardous period,” Didi said.
Mitigation efforts had been made for many years to preserve the life of the tree.
“It’s been mulched with organic mulch for a very long time now. It has a lightning rod system that has been maintained and restored every several years for quite some time. It has over 20 support cables in the scaffold limbs of the tree to reduce the risk that limbs would break away and fall out and disfigure the tree – that are all a part of its whole integrity now,” Roger said.
Being an arts center, there are naturally plans to honor the tree through art as well as use some of the wood, if salvageable. Oneta Woodworks has also agreed to partner with the county to dry, store,and mill the wood.
“My goal is to try to make the sadness a little less. But it will be a tremendous loss because that is a majestic tree,” said Didi.
There are plans to use pictures painted by children inspired by Klimt along with historic paintings of the tree and photographs taken throughout the years to create a 2d exhibit in honor of the tree. Depending on the condition of the heart and interior of the tree, wood sections could be used to create a bench for Sandy Creek Nature Center and outdoor seating at the Lyndon House which the UGA Landscape Architect Department will help design. Burls may be used by a local woodturners group that meets at the arts center.
As far as replacing the tree, Roger has been counting acorns dropped by the oak in hopes that at least one will grow into a sapling. However, bugs,
rain, and squirrels did not leave many to choose from.
“Roger has promised me a bank of trees along the edge of that part of the campus to give it a buffering,” said Didi.
Roger added, “that tree has been so dominant in its presence and character over the years that it’s impossible to replace that architecture there. But at least in the interim period perhaps while we get a seedling going, we would like to have a tree presence along that edge.”
If you are interested in using wood for an arts project and possible art exhibition, please contact Didi Dunphy at email@example.com
- It is known as City Cemetery and was sold in 1897 during the Spanish-American War to the government to create a training base for soldiers. They built an army hospital on the site.
- In 1898 the government sold the land back to Athens, which then dubbed the hospital “The Pest House.” It was a TB hospital.
- Part of the hospital was moved in 1914.
- All that is left are 30 graves, most near-identical with square, concrete headstones. Some of the graves may have been covered up by the H.T. Edwards building.
- The cemetery has also been known at times as Pauper Ground or Poor Burying Ground according to some death certificates.
New Urban Forestry collaborated with Watson Spring to provide this White Oak section for the new Barrow Elementary in Five Points! The other piece was installed at the Special Collections Library on the UGA campus. The White Oak came from the same tree that fell in a storm about 3 years ago.
New Urban Forestry recently collaborated with Hungry Gnome Gardenscapes on an exciting project for a local customer. While Hungry Gnome is building an amphitheater, New Urban Forestry designed and installed a zipline with a landing platform and attachment hardware. Stay tuned for pictures of the finished landscape.
A certified arborist is a specialist in the care of individual trees. Arborists are knowledgeable about the needs of trees and are trained and equipped to provide proper care. Hiring an arborist is a decision that should not be taken lightly. Proper tree care is an investment that can lead to substantial returns. Well-cared-for trees are attractive and can add considerable value to your property. Poorly maintained trees can be a significant liability. Pruning or removing trees, especially large trees, can be dangerous work. Tree work should be done only by those trained and equipped to work safely in trees.
Services That Arborists Can Provide
An arborist can determine the type of pruning necessary to maintain or improve the health, appearance, and safety of trees. These techniques include
- eliminating branches that rub each other
- removing limbs that interfere with wires, building facades, gutters, roofs, chimneys, or windows, or that obstruct streets or sidewalks
- removing dead or weak limbs that pose a hazard or may lead to decay
- removing diseased or insect-infested limbs
- creating better structure to lessen wind resistance and reduce the potential for storm damage
- training young trees
- removing limbs damaged by adverse weather conditions
- removing branches, or thinning, to increase light penetration
- improving the shape or silhouette of the tree
Although tree removal is a last resort, there are circumstances when it is necessary. An arborist can help decide whether a tree should be removed. Arborists have the skills and equipment to safely and efficiently remove trees. Removal is recommended when the tree
- is dead or dying
- is considered irreparably hazardous
- is causing an obstruction that is impossible to correct through pruning
- is crowding and causing harm to other trees
- is to be replaced by a more suitable specimen
- is located in an area where new construction requires removal
Emergency Tree Care
Storms may cause limbs or entire trees to fall, often landing on other trees, homes and other structures, or cars. The weight of storm-damaged trees is great, and they can be dangerous to remove or trim. An arborist can assist in performing the job in a safe manner, while reducing further risk of damage to property.
Some arborists plant trees, and most can recommend types of trees that are appropriate for a specific location. The wrong tree in the wrong location could lead to future problems as a result of limited growing space, insects, diseases, or poor growth.
Many arborists also provide a variety of other tree care services, including
- Plant Health Care, a concept of preventive maintenance to keep trees in good health, which will help the tree better defend itself against insects, disease, and site problems
- Cabling or bracing for added support to branches with weak attachment
- Aeration to improve root growth
- Installation of lightning protection systems
- Spraying or injecting to control certain insect and disease problems
Selecting the Right Arborist for the Job
When selecting an arborist,
- check for membership in professional organizations such as the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA), the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA), or the American Society of Consulting Arborists (ASCA). Such membership demonstrates a willingness on the part of the arborist to stay up to date on the latest techniques and information.
- check for ISA arborist certification. Certified Arborists are experienced professionals who have passed an extensive examination covering all aspects of tree care.
- ask for proof of insurance and then phone the insurance company if you are not satisfied. A reputable arborist carries personal and property damage insurance as well as workers compensation insurance. Many home owners have had to pay out large amounts of money for damages caused by uninsured individuals claiming to be tree experts. You could be held responsible for damages and injuries that occur as a result of the job.
- check for necessary permits and licenses. Some governmental agencies require contractors to apply for permits and/or to apply for a license before they are able to work. Be sure they comply with any local, state, provincial, or national laws that govern their work.
- ask for references to find out where the company has done work similar to the work you are requesting. Don’t hesitate to check references or visit other work sites where the company or individual has done tree work. Remember, tree care is a substantial, long-lasting investment; you would not buy a car without a test drive!
- get more than one estimate, unless you know and are comfortable with the arborist. You may have to pay for the estimates, and it will take more time, but it will be worth the investment.
- don’t always accept the low bid. You should examine the credentials and the written specifications of the firms that submitted bids and determine the best combination of price, work to be done, skill, and professionalism to protect your substantial investment.
- be wary of individuals who go door to door and offer bargains for performing tree work. Most reputable companies are too busy to solicit work in this manner. Improper tree care can take many years to correct itself and, in some cases, it can never be corrected. Are you willing to take that risk with your valuable investment?
- keep in mind that good arborists will perform only accepted practices. For example, practices such as topping a tree, removing an excessive amount of live wood, using climbing spikes on trees that are not being removed, and removing or disfiguring living trees without just cause are unnecessary.
- get it in writing. Most reputable arborists have their clients sign a contract. Be sure to read the contract carefully.
What Is a Certified Arborist?
An arborist by definition is an individual who is trained in the art and science of planting, caring for, and maintaining individual trees. ISA arborist certification is a nongovernmental, voluntary process by which individuals can document their base of knowledge. It operates without mandate of law and is an internal, self-regulating device administered by the International Society of Arboriculture. Certification provides a measurable assessment of an individual’s knowledge and competence required to provide proper tree care.
Certification is not a measure of standards of practice. Certification can attest to the tree knowledge of an individual but cannot guarantee or ensure quality performance.
Certified Arborists are individuals who have achieved a level of knowledge in the art and science of tree care through experience and by passing a comprehensive examination developed by some of the nation’s leading experts on tree care. Certified Arborists must also continue their education to maintain their certification. Therefore, they are more likely to be up to date on the latest techniques in arboriculture.
Be an Informed Consumer
One of the best methods to use in choosing an arborist is to educate yourself on some of the basic principles of tree care. ISA offers several other brochures in this series, which discuss many of the basic principles of tree care. Your local garden center, extension agent, or city arborists are also excellent sources of information if you should have further questions. They may also be able to refer you to an ISA Certified Arborist in your area.
What is Air Spading?
Air spading is a method of excavating soil without damaging infrastructure. Compressed air is used to dislodge the soil as it moves at approximately 1200 mph. The air is non-damaging and can expose roots, buried cables, pipes or other utilities. It can expose the root system of a tree in order to diagnose problems with the tree, or it can simply aerate the soil, so that less compacted soil can be added. This is considered a less damaging way to provide vertical mulching.
Why would a New Urban Forestry customer want to air-spade?
- To help diagnose a problem in the roots that might potentially save a diseased tree.
- To provide vertical mulching around trees and shrubs to promote healthy plants.
- To expose existing utilities for home construction projects without damaging healthy trees.
- To reduce soil compaction.
These are just some of the ways that air spading can help your property.
See more photos of New Urban Forestry air-spading in our photo gallery.
Mulching is one of the most beneficial things a homeowner can do to keep trees healthy. It makes growing situations more “friendly” for trees in general.
The generally recommended mulching depth is two to four inches, according to the ISA. When applied properly, mulch helps maintain soil moisture, control weeds, improve soil structure, and inhibit certain plant diseases. Mulch also protects plants and trees from “weed whacker” damage and “lawnmower blight” in addition to giving planting beds a uniform, well-cared for look.
Urban landscapes are typically harsh environments with poor soil conditions, little organic matter, and big fluctuations in temperature and moisture – all “unfriendly” growing situations for trees. A two to four inch layer of organic mulch can mimic a more natural environment for trees and improve overall plant health.
When mulching, Skiera says it is important to remember that the root system of a tree is not a mirror image of its top. “The roots of most trees extend out a significant distance from the trunk. Also, most of the fine absorbing roots of trees are located within inches of the soil surface.”
These shallow roots are essential for taking up water and minerals for trees, and they require oxygen to survive, Skiera says. A thin layer of mulch, applied as broadly as practical, can improve the soil structure, oxygen levels, temperature, and moisture availability where these roots grow.