Forestry and Horticulture
Trees in the Right-Of-Way
In the past, the responsibility for the maintenance of trees in the City right-of-way (typically the area between the street and sidewalk in most areas of the City) has been the responsibility of the adjacent property owner. Under City Code adjacent property owners had the responsibility for maintaining a minimum tree clearance height of 14’ over a city street and an 8’ minimum height over sidewalks. The height clearances also pertain to trees planted on private property. State law has dictated that all trees planted within the public right-of-way that are dead, diseased and dying are the responsibility of the City. Many residents have been diligent with the trimming of the trees planted in City right-of-way but issues with clearance and maintenance have continued to be an issue.
Tree clearance issues create on-going problems for traffic, pedestrians, school buses and solid waste collection. Various operations performed by Public Services staff such as snow plowing and street sweeping have also been impacted.
To minimize many of the issues associated with the maintenance of City trees in the public right-of-way, the West Des Moines City Council approved modifications to the City Code at the December 27, 2016 Council meeting that shifts the maintenance of these trees from the adjacent property owner to the Public Services Department. Keep in mind that this only applies to trees planted within City rights-of-way; trees planted on private property are still the responsibility of the property owner to maintain.
In addition to trimming trees planted in public rights-of-way, the Urban Forester and Public Services staff will also be removing damaged or dead trees and vegetative material that poses an immediate risk to public safety and/or adjacent property or infrastructure. For the purposes of scheduling and assigning locations, crews will work through zones utilized with the City’s Street Cleaning program. The goal for the City’s approximate 6,400 public trees will be to evaluate and, if necessary, trim on a three year rotation. Any private trees on the list will be referred to the West Des Moines Community Compliance officers to address in the appropriate manner. Public as well as private trees provide numerous benefits to our community and with proper and routine maintenance should continue to do so for years to come.
Emerald Ash Borer (EAB)
Do you have an ash tree on your property? You'll want to learn more about this invasive insect and the City's EAB Management Plan.