Stories from the NFCCA Newsletter, the “Northwood News”

Northwood News ♦ October 2012

Taking Care of Street Trees in the Neighborhood

By Priscilla Holberton

Are there street trees missing on your street?  Are there street trees that look like they are dead or need trimming?  A street tree is a tree which is planted in the county-owned land between the sidewalk and the street, the right-of-way.  These trees are owned and maintained by the county government, although Pepco does trimming of street trees which interfere with its power lines.

On my own block of Edgewood Avenue alone, we have 12 trees present and 11 trees missing.  I have noticed a huge difference in the loss of street tree canopy in the 14 years I have lived here.

Plant a Tree on the Right-of-Way

If you are missing a tree which has died on the county right-of-way in front of your property, you can call 311 and give the operator the location and your name; although there are no guarantees, they do take homeowner requests when deciding on trees.  An arborist will come out and take a look to determine which type of tree should be planted.

I talked with Larry Acosta in the Department of Transportation.  He said that, due to budget cuts, there is a three-year wait for planting, but that is a reason to call now and get on the list for a new tree!

If you live on a street that is missing lots of trees, you can talk to your neighbors about each calling 311.  The trees must be in the front (or side) of the homeowner’s property and the person authorizing the tree planting must be the homeowner.

The Montgomery County website gives a lot of information about size and type of trees that they will plant.  If your right-of-way is under a power line, then the County plants “minor trees,” smaller trees which will not interfere with the power line.  On the side of the street without power lines, the County plants “major trees.” If you do a Google search on “Montgomery County street trees,” you will get to the page that lists the trees species and talks about tree maintenance.  [Editor’s Note: This does not mean the trees are species native to the area, so check and consider making that choice.]

Dead Trees on the County Right-of-Way

Anyone can call to report a tree which needs trimming or a tree that looks dead and needs to be removed.  It does not have to be adjacent to your house or even in your neighborhood.  Just note the location, call 311, and give them the information.  All of the street trees in our neighborhood are maintained by Montgomery County, but street trees on numbered highways are maintained by the state.  The number to call for trees on a state highway — such as University Blvd. W. — is 301.572.5166.

According to the 311 website:  “If there is a dead or dying County tree, an Arborist will come out and evaluate the tree.  The Arborist will leave a door hanger on your doorknob with the results of the inspection.  Often the inspection can take up to one month, depending on where the Arborist is in the County inspection rotation.  If the tree is near power lines, please contact Pepco at 877.737.2662; the County cannot remove limbs or a tree located near power lines.”

You can even report dead trees online without talking to an operator.  The new website is  In the search box, type “dead county tree” and it will bring out a short list; select “dead county tree” and you can report online.

If you have a dead tree removed from the right-of-way in front of your house, the County does not automatically put the location on a list to plant a new tree; you must call and request one.  After a tree is removed, the County puts the stump on a list of stumps to be removed.  According to Ms. Ayers of the Office of Public Relations, “Our stump budget has been frozen for over two years so we have a considerable backlog, with the oldest stumps being over three years old.”  The stump is ground down to six inches below the surrounding ground level.  The chips are removed, topsoil is added, and it is replanted with grass.  There is detailed information about stump grinding on the website.

Tree Trimming

If the tree is near power lines, call Pepco.  If the tree is interfering with traffic, or pedestrian traffic or your own trees in your yard, call 311.  After inspection, the tree is put into the tree maintenance system and pruned on a schedule like the queue for dead trees.  If it is deemed hazardous, then it is moved up in the queue.

Dead Trees in Montgomery County Parks

I think people forget about dead trees in the parks.  The number to call to report a dead tree in the Montgomery County Parks is the MNCPPC Service center at 301.670.8080.

I have a particular interest in making sure to report dead trees in public parks.  On our neighborhood Easter egg hunt in North Four Corners Park two years ago, the top 30 feet of a dead tree overlooking the playground came down on that overcast day.  There were at least 60 people on the playground that morning and the tree came down on top of the dozer play equipment under which my son was playing.  Had he been on the equipment that day, he would be dead.  Luckily no one was hurt, but a little boy and his mom were scared to death.  I called the park police, since there was no answer at the service center, and the rest of that dead tree was removed within 24 hours.  I have called to have five more dead trees removed from the same park that overlooked that playground and were within 30 feet.  It took months for them to be removed, but they are finally gone.


If you are missing trees, call the County or gather neighbors on the street who are missing trees and get in the queue to get new trees.  But, at the same time, I would like to enlist people to report dead trees on the County right-of-way, in public parks, at your child’s school.  Many of the trees were planted 50-60 years ago and are dying.  If you think a tree is dead or dying (and there are many dying trees out there), report it to the County via 311 or the website.  Trees beautify the neighborhood.  Let’s have our dead trees removed for safety’s sake and some of our missing trees replaced for beauty’s sake!   ■

   © 2012 NFCCA  [Source:]