A Brief History

The Audubon Park Garden Club recognized the need to maintain and renew the beauty of the tree canopy in Audubon Park.

Those who first laid out our streets and built their homes here had the foresight to plant a living cathedral of shade and peace, which has drawn many of us to Audubon Park over the years.  The City also has the wonderful resource of its “pocket parks” which give us easy access to a bit of nature and open space, all within a few steps of our front doors. 

Many of these old trees, our mature oaks, ashes, and sugar maples have suffered damage from development, some from long-term maintenance neglect, and others from the cumulative natural disasters.  The urban forest is always in need of care and renewal.

We have been fortunate that the Audubon Park Garden Club has been a volunteer steward of our trees and a partner with the City of Audubon Park.  Members like Sara Pope and Ethelyn Maxwell and Natalie Scharre were pioneers in adopting practices to diversify the tree plantings over the years.  Funding from the Garden Club has been used for over 30 years to provide for maintenance and replanting in Audubon Park.

The first Community Tree Committee (now the Forest Board) was founded in 1999 to advise the Mayor and the City Council about our trees, and to provide an on-going management plan for the City and the Parks.  This is an “unfunded mandate” and the Forest Board continues to work with the Garden Club and grants to raise funds for tree care and tree planting.  The most recent grant from the KY Division of Forestry's Urban and Community Forestry Grant Program  in 2007 enabled us to plant 23 trees.  The impetus from that grant has carried over into a new set of plans to care for our trees and address attrition in the parks and easements.

The 1999 Inventory of the Easement Trees

In 1999, at the inception of the Forest Board, the City wisely commissioned a complete inventory of the easement street trees.  This inventory was performed by George Bell, and included all trees within 8 feet of the roadway edge.  We have recently returned to this document to assess the species distribution of our canopy trees.  The guidelines in Urban Forestry suggest that no one family of trees (like Fagaceae, which includes beech, oak, and chestnut) make up more than 30% of the total, no genus (like Quercus, all oaks) make up more than 20%, and no particularly species make up more than 10% (like Quercus palustris, pin oak).  This is to prevent losing all trees in an area to a particular disease process, like the previous loss of American elms to Dutch elm disease, and the coming loss of ashes to Emerald Ash Borer.

The Forest Board has analyzed the 1999 data to set a baseline.  At that time, our ashes made up 22% of our total easement trees (200 of 867 trees), but on some streets, ashes made up a higher percentage of the shade trees.  Similarly, recent natural events may have selectively increased mortality in our pin oaks.  Pin oaks were 17% of the total trees (well over the threshold of 10%).  Even in 1999, too many maples had been planted.  The family level of Red maple, Silver Maple and Sugar maples was 37% (>30% threshold).  Red Maples as a single species accounted for 24% (suggested level is <10%). 


The Forest Board initially began a reassessment of the 1999 inventory in 2006, but lacked sufficient personnel to complete the job, and the analytic tools at that time were just beginning to develop.  In the meantime, the weather events of September 2008, the ice storm of 2009, and recent wind burst damage, made it more pressing to quantify the overall mortality.


In addition, the expectation that all ashes will be lost over the next decade made it important to reassess the number of ashes and their condition and their concentration on any particular street.  Curlew Park in particular will be heavily damaged by loss of ashes.

A preliminary survey of the 1999 trees shows 25% mortality since 1999.  In 12 years, we have lost 227 trees of the original 886 documented in 1999.  This mortality is distributed among the three major categories, and has made little difference in the relative percentage of trees for each category. More red maples have died overall, and fewer ashes.  For detailed analysis of information from the 1999 Inventory, and for analysis of preliminary mortality data, see the attached PDF files.


Since we expect to lose most ashes to Emerald Ash Borer, it helps to know which species are concentrated on particular streets so a targeted plan for replanting can be developed with owners.

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Anne Bobigian,
Jan 13, 2012, 1:45 PM
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Anne Bobigian,
Jan 13, 2012, 1:45 PM