A giant elm will be felled in Julia Davis Park later this month to make way for improvements to the Zoo Boise driveway. Three young honey locust trees on the Grove Plaza are dead, and dozens of downtown Norway maples are browning in the heat of summer.
While cutting down the elm is part of a Boise City Council-approved plan to straighten up the park road in front of the zoo, it is unclear who is responsible for other downtown trees or what happened to the Grove trees.
"I think there needs to be a consistent conclusion of who needs to do what," said Phil Kushlan, executive director of Capital City Development Corporation. "I'm less concerned about how it comes out as it needs to have an outcome."
CCDC is in charge of the trees on the Grove, though the city's Community Forestry Unit monitors them as well. Boise property owners--both commercial and residential--are responsible for the care of trees adjacent to their property, but many are not aware of that.
Kushlan said CCDC has been in conversations with the city over tree jurisdiction for a long time. Last year, CCDC paid to have all the trees along the north side of Idaho Street, between Ninth and 10th streets taken out and replaced with locusts. The Boise forestry department assisted with the replanting.
"The goal that we have is to replace every tree that we remove," said Debbie Cook, a forestry specialist in the city's Parks and Recreation Department.
Cook said the stress on the downtown maples stems from two factors: They are planted in a small box, leaving little room for roots to grow, and they have large leaves that are susceptible to scorching.
"We hate to lose trees this size," said Cook, who worked in the Idaho Department of Lands' Urban Forestry Department before moving to the city two years ago.
Though dozens of maples in the downtown core are scorched, they are not dead. Cook is looking for alternative funding to replace them with a smaller leaved or heartier tree--the smaller leaved locusts handle Boise summers better.
But there are other issues with the downtown trees, including an antiquated sprinkler system and people who lock their bikes to the trees, scraping off bark in the process.
City foresters will inspect trees in public areas--trees that are on the median or within the right-of-way in front of homes or businesses--but owners must pay for tree care. Cook said her department will step in if a tree poses a danger to the public.
The three dead trees on the Grove remain a mystery. Kushlan said they have collected soil samples and are having tests done to see if a foreign substance was added to the soil.
Cook said something like hot grease in the tree well could have killed them. They will be replaced in the spring, or as soon as it is possible to replant, Kushlan said.
At the zoo, Parks and Rec is straightening Zoo Drive, removing an island and providing more parking spots in front of the zoo. The $138,000 project includes removing 14 red maples and ashes by the zoo entrance, and one large elm on the park side that bulges into the curb. Some of the trunks and limbs will be used for displays at Zoo Boise.
The value of the 15 trees to be removed is estimated at $34,000--an equal value of trees will be planted to mitigate for the removal, according to Parks and Rec.
Cook said that Boise makes urban trees a priority because they capture storm water, which aids the sewer system; they take particulates out of the air; they keep cars cooler, which cuts down on emissions; they protect asphalt from the sun and they look good.
"Canopy cover is part of our goal," Cook said. "Trees make an incredible difference."