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Consider the tree. It is a symbol of strength, durability and beauty. It is universally loved by all and worshiped by some. And what's not to like? It gives shade on a hot summer day and provides a shield against the chilling winds of winter.

Yet, trees require management in an urban setting like homeowner associations to be all that they can be. As they age, they encroach on buildings, sidewalks and paving. Branches overhanging roofs do damage and drop leaves clogging gutters. In wetter climates, tree shade accelerates moss and algae growth which destroys roofing and siding. Tree shade also hinders bush, plant and flower growth.

These eventual problems often start at the first planting. Developers, as part of their marketing effort, often overcrowd or inappropriately locate trees trying to enhance curb appeal. Eight-to-twelve-foot specimens are planted too close to buildings, sidewalks and parking. Since the tree stock is small and inexpensive, greater numbers are planted for greater effect.

But time does what time does and those small trees have become a maintenance nightmare. The gutter cleaning budget is getting out of hand and tree roots have lifted sidewalks and broken up paving. Those hazelnut trees are prodigious and someone swears they saw rats roaming the common area at night feasting on them. The tree cover has gotten so dense that security lighting is totally blocked and residents complaint they need braille to find their way from their car to their unit!

The Board's response: "Okay, okay, understood. The trees have gotten out of hand. Let's just cut them all down."

"WHAT?" is the horrified reaction from longtime resident and activist Ima Treehugger. "Are you crazy? The trees aren't the problem, it's what they do." Indeed.

Time to call an expert. Arborists are invaluable to tree care and management. They have extensive training for species likely to be found in an HOA. Arborists take a long-term approach to trees since trees have the longest lives of any living thing. They understand the characteristics of each one, what it needs to flourish and how to keep it pruned for maximum beauty.

With a site plan in hand, an arborist can identify and locate every tree on the property by species, size, age and health. Ideally, every tree should be tagged with an identifying number so that records can be kept on each. With this information, a long-range tree care plan is plotted out for pest control, pruning and even removal when trees are too concentrated, inappropriate or poorly located.

An arborist is one consultant that every tree festooned HOA should avail themselves of. With an arborist's tree plan in hand, the Board can budget and schedule properly to maintain one of the HOA's biggest assets. Whether planting or planning, an arborist is a tree-mendous asset.

For more on trees, "Specifications" section.

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