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Athens hopes to improve local canopy

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People from around the country are fascinated by the landscape surrounding Athens, but it does not come easy as the city Shade Tree Commission plans their next move to improve the city’s tree diversity.

In his address to the commission, Deputy Service Safety Director Ron Lucas told the committee of some of the concerns over the removal of two golden locust trees at the intersection of Elmwood Pl. and Watt St.

“What happened there is that there were two golden locust trees that were seriously declining,” Lucas said. “I had my eyes on them for four months and they were getting to the point where they were dropping branches and I thought it was a safety hazard and the service safety director supported me on that.”

In response to the removal of the trees, nearby neighborhoods expressed their disagreement, which launched a movement to replace the trees.

“I thought as a good gesture would be to replant there … I have no interest to destroy our canopy, actually the opposite,” Lucas said.

As a solution to canopy improvements, Lucas suggested partnering with Ohio University plant biology classes and the Athens Elementary School. It is Lucas’ hope that trees could be planted throughout the city while educating students both young and older about the importance of a biodiversity.

Lucas plans to plant the new trees in the east side of the city on Friday Oct. 18 at 1:00 p.m. after a brief mulching workshop with elementary students and possibly a tree pruning workshop. Mayor Paul Wiehl is also expected to address the crowd.

To promote future thought and preservation of city trees, Lucas is working with an OU professor to start a semester program for plant biology students. In the program, students will work with the Shade Tree Commission to take inventory of the trees on the eastern side of the city. They will analyze tree species, height, canopy width and the condition of each tree.

Other members of the commission requested the class focus on different parts of the city each semester if the program is successful.

“We will maybe continue on with three or four students each semester,” Lucas said.

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