It’s not going to be a popular move however Maitland City Council has no choice but to remove the city’s 22 iconic Poplar trees that line The Long Bridge.
Significant rot and decay have been identified in the Lombardy Poplars which were planted in 1939 by local school children to mark Arbor Day in the city.
In a report to Tuesday night’s council meeting council’s infrastructure manager Ashley Kavanagh said the trees have been assessed by council’s arborist who said the trees require removal to ensure public safety.
Work is to be carried out immediately to meet safety requirements and the removal process will start in February.
A total of 22 of the trees remain on the site. It is not known how many trees were originally planted in the area. Some of the original Poplars were damaged and removed after the many floods that ripped through the area.
Poplar trees’ life expectancy is around 20 years. The Lombardy Poplar is also prone to disease around the 10 to 15 year mark.
“Based on this life cycle and expectancy it is believed that many if not all of the Poplars on the site today have grown as suckers from the original root stock,” Mr Kavanagh said in his report.
“Over recent months signs of dieback have been noticed in the tops of many of these Poplars. Pruning works were undertaken in the Spring of 2017 in an effort to maintain the integrity of the trees. Post these works the dieback has continued,” Mr Kavanagh said.
Council’s arborist undertook individual inspections on each of the trees in early January identifying significant rot and decay along with cavity root rot in the root zone.
The expectation for the trees survival, based on their current condition and life cycle is not high.
Council has been made aware of a recent incident where a Poplar branch fell and struck a passing car, piercing the windscreen.
“The Long Bridge carries traffic across the Oakhampton floodway that forms part of the Lower Hunter Flood Mitigation Scheme,” Mr Kavanagh said. “It is a critical component of the evacuation route from Central Maitland. The location of trees such as the Poplars in the vicinity of the bridge piers is not ideal and has the potential to impact the flood flow capacity of the structure.”
It is not planned to replace the trees in their current location on the floodway. Alternative sites for the replacement tree planting within Central Maitland will be investigated.