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Ancient oak loses limb to garbage truck

Margie Berwick holds up a large chunk of wood that fell from the Garry oak tree along Eighth Avenue after a city garbage truck clipped a branch that extends over the roadway. - Jenny Manning/Whidbey News-Times
Margie Berwick holds up a large chunk of wood that fell from the Garry oak tree along Eighth Avenue after a city garbage truck clipped a branch that extends over the roadway.
— image credit: Jenny Manning/Whidbey News-Times

A low-hanging Garry oak branch may become ground cover bark if Oak Harbor officials accept arborist Jim Barborinas’ recommendation to remove a large limb that overhangs the northbound lane of SE Eighth Avenue.

The ancient oak makes its home alongside the paved avenue and is still standing strong after numerous run-ins, according to a press release from the mayor’s office.

Although the July 2 collision wasn’t a first such incident, the most recent run-in with an Oak Harbor solid waste truck removed a hefty chunk of the limb, which measures 16 inches in diameter, equal to roughly “30 percent of the bark and structural wood,” according to Barborinas of Urban Forestry Services, Inc.

The city has an oak tree protection ordinance that shields its namesake trees from trimming, topping or removal without a permit. In an effort to comply with its own oak ordinance, the city hired Barborinas to evaluate the damaged arbor and determine the best remedy for the tree’s “wound.” The report cost the city about $400.

“Although the tree is growing in the street, Garry oaks are considered special in Oak Harbor, as well as significant, given the name of the town,” he wrote in his report.

The tree is in otherwise excellent health, he said, especially given the fact that asphalt surrounds the tree.

Barborinas said the city may take one of three actions to prevent another auto/arbor accident: remove, trim heavily or cable the branch. The best action would be to remove the branch altogether, he said.

“It appears that the limb has been hit before,” he wrote in his report. “In my opinion, this limb has a moderate to high probability of failing under a future wind, rain, or snow load.”

The Oak Harbor Solid Waste Department “will reduce or remove any routes that involves travel on the east side due to low wires and trees” in an effort to avoid another collision, wrote George Place, solid waste supervisor, in the incident report.

Removal of the branch is not imminent, said Paul Schmidt, city administrator. City staff is currently considering Barborinas’ recommendation to remove the limb. The Public Works and Utilities Standing Committee will review the issue at their next meeting Thursday, Sept. 3, at the public works facility, 1400 NE 16th Ave., Oak Harbor. The meeting is open to the public.

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