Published on: Tuesday, December 6, 2022 Takoma Park Newsletter

Routine Clearance Pruning for Street Trees


Don’t be surprised this winter if you approach the sidewalk to find a street tree with a few less branches than it had before. The Urban Forest Manager and the Public Works Department will be surveying trees on the street in public space and conducting routine pruning in the coming months. Key objectives for this routine maintenance include providing adequate clearance over sidewalks, vehicle travel lanes, and vehicle parking areas. We also prune to ensure adequate sight lines to intersections, traffic signs, and crosswalks. This work is important to ensure that we can have healthy trees on our streets while maintaining safe passage for vehicles and pedestrians.

Pruning is conducted or overseen by the Urban Forest Manager and is kept to a high standard for tree health and structure. The goal is to establish eight feet of clearance over sidewalks and fourteen feet of clearance over vehicle travel lanes. Some shrubs growing in public space that cannot realistically be pruned such that they are compatible with the sidewalk and street may be removed. The same goes for trees that may have been planted or volunteered themselves in the wrong location, such as too close to a utility pole, intersection, or sign. It is important to deal with such problems when the shrub or tree is young to avoid it becoming an increasing nuisance and a more challenging job.

Property owners should also be aware that it is their responsibility to ensure that trees or shrubs growing from their properties are kept pruned to provide adequate clearance. Notices will be left on door handles in cases where private property trees are found to be too low or blocking the sidewalk. We love trees, just not when their branches make it difficult for our neighbors to navigate the sidewalks. With a bit of selective pruning trees, pedestrians, and vehicles can all live together happily.


This article was featured in the December 2022 Newsletter. Visit the Takoma Park Newsletter webpage to see the full list of past newsletters.