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.
How do we love our trees? Aside from just giving them a big hug from time to time? There are things you can do to show your tree love that will sustain its life, beyond just regular pruning and maintenance.
We all know that trees need water. But how much water and when? I can’t tell you that. But an arborist looking at your trees can. Are they drought tolerant species? Was it planted in the last 2 years? What is the soil like surrounding the tree? Getting the right amount of water (and seriously, not too much) is one of the first ways to make sure your trees know you care.
Speaking of soil…
What does an arborist know about soil? Don’t forget that tree roots extend far below the surface. Trees start from the ground up. To hug the entire tree, you have to get your hands dirty.
One of the biggest dangers to our trees is soil compaction. Do you park your car under the tree? Do your kids play under a particular tree every day? This compaction can damage the roots of the tree. Your tree may look fine now, but compacted soil can eventually lead to insect infestation or stress which can lead to vulnerability months or years down the road. Improving the soil surrounding trees can rejuvenate ailing trees and prolong the life of your investment.
One soil-improvement method that might be recommended by an arborist is radial trenching. This is the fancy way of saying: digging holes (in a radius) and filling them with nutrient-dense soil. This calculated process is designed to aerate and supply nutrients and prolong the life of the tree.
Do you spray pesticides on your tomato patch? Did you fertilize your turfgrass? Your whole landscape can affect the trees in and around it. They all share the common soil. This is one reason why an arborist should help when planning what to plant and where. We can help plan when treatments are appropriate and will not be harmful to your trees and shrubs, and also how pruning and treatment of trees can affect the other plants as well.
Planning your landscape with the longevity of trees and plants in mind with the help of an arborist can prevent problems that might occur years down the road and show your trees that you love them for many years.
Athens Georgia area tree service, New Urban Forestry, agreed to adopt and manage the trees in the Wilcox Triangle in five points. New Urban Forestry is working with Keep Athens Clarke County Beautiful and local resident Dick Field to manage and preserve the trees in the Wilcox triangle in five points. New Urban Forestry will prune the trees for structure and prune to mitigate hazard and limb failure. New Urban Forestry also plans on delivering and spreading mulch around newly planted trees to conserve water and regulate soil temperature, as well as providing for better soil structure.
Athens Arborists from New Urban Forestry believe it is important and vital to assess tree structure for hazard. Cavities as a result of previous mechanical wounds or poor pruning practices are not necessarily rated as a high hazard. Certified arborists, including Athens Arborists from New Urban Forestry Tree Service, can evaluate cavities for mechanical strength and rate cavities for hazard values as low, moderate, high, or severe. A formula for assessing strength loss of cavities is used to determine these values. Many tree services will recommend tree removal as a result of perceiving cavities or other defects in a tree with out specific evaluation techniques or the proper tools. If you have a concern about tree hazard remember to call a certified arborist to assess the tree for structure. There are signs to be aware of that may cause tree hazard or tree failure and should be evaluated by a certified arborist: root loss, root decay, fungal conks on root flares or trunk, cavities, damage to root system as a result of construction practices or excavation, significant dieback in the tree, etc. Also, Many architectural defects in trees can be mitigated with structure and over extended limb reduction pruning, and/or cabling.
It is important, however, to have a certified arborist inspect your tree for health and hazard as not all trees that are suspected as being hazardous are in fact a high hazard and sometimes trees that are perceived as being fine and healthy can have inherent risks that may be overlooked because of a nice healthy appearing crown.
Why Use a Certified Arborist. Athens, Georgia. Watkinsville, Ga Tree Service. New Urban Forestry Tree Services:
Arborists specialize in the care of individual trees. They 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.
Tree Services that Certified Arborists provide:
An arborist can determine the type of pruning necessary to maintain or improve the health, appearance, and safety of trees. Pruning techniques include removing limbs that:
• interfere with utilities or structures
• obstruct streets or sidewalks
• are dead, weak, or decayed and pose
• are diseased or insect-infested
• have been damaged by storms
• will increase light penetration and reduce wind resistance
within the canopy upon removal (thinning)
Other pruning techniques are used to maintain proper structure in young trees, improve tree shape or form, and reduce the likelihood of future damage during storm events.
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. Removal is recommended when the tree is:
• dead or dying
• considered an unacceptable risk
• causing an obstruction that is impossible to
correct through pruning
• crowding and causing harm to other,
more desirable trees
• to be replaced by a more suitable specimen
• located in an area where new construction
Emergency Tree Care:
Storms may cause limbs or entire trees to fall, often landing on other trees, 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 species that are appropriate for a particular location. The wrong tree in the wrong location will lead to future problems as a result of limited growing space, insects, diseases, or poor growth.
New Urban Forestry arborists also provide a variety of other tree care services, including:
• Plant Health Care or preventive maintenance to keep trees in good health while reducing any insect, disease, or site problems
• fertilization and soil modification for improved tree health
• cabling or bracing for added support to branches with weak
• soil aeration to improve root growth
• installation of lightning protection systems
• applications to manage certain insect and disease problems
• consulting and legal expert services relating to trees
Selecting the Right Arborist for the Job:
• 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.