Tree Policy


The Department of Public Works (DPW) is responsible for the oversight of planting, maintaining and removal of trees in the City right-of-way (ROW), City Parks and all other City owned properties.  The Director of Public Works is charged with the duty of enforcing the provisions of the City’s Ordinance regarding trees (ref. Ch. 70, Art. II).

The Park Advisory Board has served in the capacity of the City’s Tree Board since 1990.  They are listed as such in the certification documents for the annual Tree City USA designation granted by the Arbor Day Foundation.  Except for the trees downtown which are overseen by the Downtown Development Authority, the Park Advisory Board has addressed policy issues regarding trees in the City.

Many of the larger trees in the City were not properly pruned 20, 50, and 100 years ago when they were planted.  To correctively prune those trees now would open them up for disease and demise.  Unfortunately our forefathers did not have the same vision for our trees then as we do now.  This is why the DPW is committed to the proper care of our newer trees and trees that will be planted in the future.

Knowledge is an important part of the equation for the future of our trees.  Currently, the City is a member of the Arbor Day Foundation, Michigan Forestry and Park Association, and utilizes training opportunities from these and other organizations including Michigan Green Industry Association, Consumers Energy, and equipment vendors.

It is important to recognize that the City has no authority over the trees located on Lawrence Avenue, Lansing Road, and Cochran Avenue as they are under the ownership and jurisdiction of the Michigan Department of Transportation.

Additionally, Consumers Energy’s right to trim trees involved with their power lines is protected and regulated by the Michigan Public Service Commission.


The primary reason that trees are planted is to beautify our community.  Trees also provide many other benefits such as visual screening, erosion reduction, oxygen production and shade.

In FY 99/00 the City embarked on an aggressive “plant by request” program whereby citizens would request a tree be planted in the ROW in front of their house.  Requests were filled on a first come first serve basis until the budgeted money had been depleted.  Residents were able to choose trees from the City’s approved list of trees prepared in conjunction with the city’s forester.  The list is attached to this policy for reference.  Due to budget issues, the “plant by request” program was cut back in FY 04/05, and completely eliminated in FY 05/06.  It was also FY 99/00 that a separate budget account was created for trees and their maintenance.

If a request is made through the DPW, a resident is allowed to plant a tree in the ROW at their own expense.  The tree must be from the City’s approved list of street trees.


The purpose of the tree maintenance program is to preserve the health and appearance of the trees located in the City’s ROW and parks and to ensure that our trees do not constitute a hazard to the public or property.

Tree maintenance services include pruning, removing dead or diseased trees and stumps, inspecting work performed by contractors or utilities, and providing information and training in proper tree maintenance techniques.

Service Level

● Pruning, removal, and stumping is provided for trees in the City ROW and City parks.  The City or its contractor will perform all tree trimming, removals, and root pruning.

●   The DPW takes service requests from the public.  Requests are addressed according to priority and available resources.  Please see the Service Request Priority Guidelines for priority information.

●   The pruning program is in place to systematically maintain ROW and park trees from the ground and with use of the aerial lift.  The City is divided into quadrants bounded by Cochran Ave. and Henry Street.  Each winter trimming is completed in a quadrant on a rotating basis so that each quadrant is trimmed within the suggested seven year cycle.

●   Tree pests and diseases are monitored with the assistance of the City’s professional arborist, the Thornapple Grand Conservation District, the MSU Extension, the Michigan Department of Transportation arborist, and other local tree experts.

●   A planned street tree maintenance program is carried out on all new ROW trees for a minimum of three years.  This includes mulching, replacing dead trees, replacing and removing tree stakes, and structural pruning.

●   When necessary, the DPW works in cooperation with Consumers Energy to clear tree limbs that are within ten feet of the power lines.


The responsibility of the DPW is to maintain, protect, and preserve our urban forest.  It is our policy not to remove trees unless they are determined to be hazardous.

Trees in the City ROW will be removed by the DPW at the expense of the City under the following conditions:

●The tree is declared a hazard.

●The tree is declared dead or diseased.

●The tree has caused recurring damage to curbs, gutters, or sidewalks, and pruning and         root pruning will not reasonably prevent further damage.

●The tree has damaged private property, including roofs, retaining walls, block                         wall foundations, driveways, etc., and pruning and root pruning will not reasonably    prevent further damage.

Trees in the ROW will not be removed for the following reasons:

●The tree drops leaves, pods, flowers, etc., or birds roosting in the tree creating a                    mess.

●The tree roots intrude into a private sewer lateral.

●The tree roots are coming to the surface in the front yard or ROW.

●The tree roots have damaged private planters, paving, etc. constructed in the                         public ROW.

●The tree interferes with planned construction.

●The insects attracted to the tree are a nuisance.

●The tree is shading a garden, patio, turf, etc.

●The tree is blocking a street light.

Restitution will be pursued for trees that are removed illegally by a homeowner or contractor.  An appraisal by the City’s arborist will be conducted, and the offender will be invoiced for the appraised value of the tree as well as the cost of the appraisal.


In order to respond to customer inquiries in a timely manner, the following set of service request priority guidelines have been developed.  These examples determine the priority in which tree maintenance work is addressed.


The following are responded to as soon as equipment and personnel can be dispatched, and are classified as an immediate danger to the public:

●A tree has fallen over

●A large broken branch either on the ground or in the tree

●The tree is unusually leaning or swaying

●A newly cracked or splitting tree

High Priority

The following high priority requests are responded to when the work can be organized in an effective manner:

●The removal of trees that have been determined to be diseased

●The removal of branches that overhang sidewalks, driveways, roadways, or streetlights

●Tree removal requests that have approval

●Trees with branches rubbing on houses or shingles

Basic Service

The following are low priority requests and will be responded to as time and resources permit:

●General tree pruning

●Tree is shading or interfering with a privately owned tree

●Removals for reasons of die-back (but not considered hazardous)


Ginkgo (male variety only)

Shademaster Honeylocust

Skyline Honeylocust

Red Maple Varieties (Armstrong, Autumn Flame, Bowhall, October Glory, Red Sunset)

Sugar Maple

Hedge Maple

Trident Maple

Norway Maple varieties (Cleveland, Columnar, Crimson King, Emerald Queen, Schwedler, Summershade, Superform)

Zelkova, Village Green variety

Selected Crabapple varieties (no Thunderchild)

Washington and La Valle Hawthorns

Linden Varieties (Greenspire, Redmond, Criean, Glenleven)

Oak Varieties (Bur, Chinkapin, English, Northern Pin, Northern Red, Shingle, Shumard, Swamp White, White)

Chanticleer Pear

London Planetree (Bloodgood variety)

Japanese Tree Lilac



How do I know if a tree adjacent to my home is in the public ROW? City trees are located on the strip of boulevard between the sidewalk and the street.  If you have no sidewalk, you can contact the DPW for a determination based on the street’s ROW.

How long does it take between phoning in a tree concern and having the tree investigated? Under normal circumstances, the inquiry will be investigated within two days, or immediately if determined to be a hazard or emergency.

How long does it take between a tree investigation and the recommended work? Under normal circumstances, work will be completed in the same year a request is taken.  Maintenance trimming is generally done in the winter months when the tree is dormant.  Emergency work is always done as soon as possible.

Who do I contact when a tree is interfering with power lines? Contact Consumers Energy at 1-800-477-5050.

Who should I contact if a neighbor’s private tree interferes with my tree or property? The City has no authority in these situations and we can only suggest that you seek legal counsel if the situation cannot be worked out amicably with the neighbor.

Does the City give tree chips away? The City does keep a pile of wood chips at the DPW garage for residents to use.  The DPW does not load the chips nor guarantee their quality.  The chips are available on a first come first serve basis.

Does the City pick up brush from trees on private property? No.  However, a resident is allowed to drop the brush off at the DPW garage after they sign in at the office.

May I take the logs from trees that have been removed from the ROW? Yes.  If the resident requests to keep the logs from a tree in front of their home, they have first right of refusal.  The logs will be placed behind the sidewalk or ROW.  The homeowner is then responsible for any cleanup that occurs after that.  The only exception to the homeowner keeping the logs would be if the tree were removed due to disease, in which case the tree will be disposed of properly by the DPW.

How long after pruning/ removal is complete will the logs and brush be removed? Under normal conditions, the debris will be picked up the same day that pruning/ removal is done.  There may be circumstances whereby a crew is needed for an emergency elsewhere in the City.  In those cases, the brush will be picked up as soon as possible.

Does the City clean up leaves or fruit from City trees? No, we do not provide this service.

Can the public remove branches from City trees? No, the DPW is responsible for all tree maintenance.

Does the City respond to trees obstruction sidewalks, driveways, and traffic signs? The DPW will remove the lower branches on trees maintained by the City in order to provide clearance for buildings, vehicles, signs, and pedestrians.  Tree branches over roadways are removed to a height of 15 feet, and to a height of ten feet over sidewalks and pathways.  All branches within 6 feet of a structure are also removed when requested.  Trees on private property that are causing problems are the responsibility of the homeowner.

How are tree roots able to interfere with sewer lines? Tree roots are frequently found in sewer lines that have collapsed or leak.  Tree roots are not the cause of the problem.  While seeking water, entry is gained through a previously cracked portion of the pipe.  Cracks in a line may occur due to a deterioration of the pipe because of age, shifting or complication of the pipe bed, or because of the type of piping material used in the construction of the line.  In older systems, the line was usually constructed with clay tiles.  Modern sewer construction relies on PVC plastic pipe.  For this reason, the City will not remove publicly maintained trees because of sewer problems.

Who is responsible for repairs when tree roots interfere with sewer lines? The maintenance responsibility of a sewer line is that of the property owner.  The City will only repair or replace the connection to the sewer main line.  Tree roots can be chemically removed from a sewer line through the application of a herbicide which burns off any obstructing roots.  Typically, these applications area required every two to three years.  The DPW will provide this service to homeowners in accordance with the current fee schedule.

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