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Rehoboth: Enforce tree ordinance vigorously

October 26, 2018

In Rehoboth Beach, the pace of residential demolitions in 2018 looks to be on its way to setting another single-year record.  

Most of the houses demolished have been replaced within a year of their demolition. Fortunately, many replacement houses have been built tastefully and within the scale of their neighborhoods. That’s the thing about houses. They can be replaced relatively quickly.

But that’s not the case with trees. Working with sunshine, soil and rain, trees take their own sweet time to become the beautiful creations they are, no two exactly alike.

Rehoboth Beach many years ago recognized the value its mature tree canopy has for the quality of life in the city, and also recognized that such canopies don’t happen overnight. The tree ordinance evolved from that recognition and was implemented for a number of reasons, but the overarching reason was to protect that canopy.

That’s why, when a request came in recently from a property owner for permission to cut down a specimen silver maple estimated by its 56-inch caliper to be in the range of 150 years old, the request was taken very seriously and ultimately denied by City Arborist Liz Lingo. On examination, she determined – among many criteria – that the tree has a structurally sound trunk, no major insect or disease problems, and not enough dead or damaged limbs to disqualify it as a specimen tree. She also determined its caliper – 56 inches at one foot above the ground – more than doubled the minimum caliper size needed to rank it as a specimen tree.

Unfortunately, the committee reversed her decision, allowing the tree to be removed. The precedent this sets is dangerous for Rehoboth’s tree canopy. If the city is to retain the beautiful character its trees have helped create, proper decisions like that made by the arborist in this case should be celebrated and upheld vigorously by the Parks and Shade Tree Commission.

  • Editorials are considered by the editorial board and written by Dennis Forney, publisher, and Laura Ritter, news editor, with occasional contributions from other board members: Trish Vernon, editor; Dave Frederick, sports editor emeritus; Jen Ellingsworth, associate editor; Nick Roth, sports editor; and Chris Rausch, associate publisher.