Successful communities rely on the cognizance and altruism of its members. Whether they report potholes, pick up trash, or clear roadways, everyday citizens make or break the cities and towns they live in.
As you’re walking in a park or driving down a city street you may notice trees on public property that pose a threat to those around them. We’re hopeful that people that live near these hazardous urban trees are the first to report a problem. That is not always the case, however.
Being the good samaritan that you are, you want to report a hazardous tree but don’t know who to call (this isn’t Ghostbusters’ forte). Do you call the police? The Department of Transportation? The mayor?
We’ll help you understand whether or not a tree is hazardous and who to contact to report it using our city of Indianapolis as an example.
How do I recognize a hazardous tree?
If you see a tree that looks hazardous, first check to see if the tree has been marked for inspection or removal. The City of Indianapolis marks their hazardous trees with bright orange paint, orange tape, or both. Check around the tree before reporting it.
Here are a few other signs a tree may be hazardous:
- Missing bark or large cracks: While this doesn’t mean the tree could fall over any moment, it is a sign that the tree is unhealthy and is prone to breakage. Reporting these trees for inspection can help stop their death in its tracks.
- Fallen or broken branches/limbs: If the ground beneath a tree is littered with broken branches or an entire limb has fallen to the ground, it poses a threat to the people and property surrounding it.
- Severely leaning or bent tree: These trees typically need to be removed or braced to keep them from injuring people or property.
- Uprooted tree: The tree is at a high risk of falling.
- Fallen tree: Generally a cause for concern, especially near roadways.
- Overgrown tree: Sometimes overgrown trees will block traffic signs and signal creating a road hazard.
- Tree that is touching or resting on a power line: Not good.
Who is responsible for a tree?
A common debate is who is responsible for the trees on the shoulder lawn between the street and the sidewalk. In Indianapolis and other cases, they are the city’s responsibility. If your property borders public land, there may be some debate about who has responsibility of the tree.
Doubt concerning the ownership of a tree should be handled with the city. Attempting to plant, prune, remove, treat, or fertilize a tree on city property could result in heavy fines.
Trees in public spaces like city streets, sidewalks, parks, pools, and some businesses are within a city’s “right-of-way,” meaning they are responsible to maintain them. You can call the Indianapolis Bureau of Environmental Services at 317.327.2236 to determine if the tree is in the city’s right-of-way.
How do I report a hazardous tree?
Many larger cities, like Indianapolis, have a .gov website that provides resources for reporting a variety of concerns. Chances are you can just Google “[your city name].gov” and find what you’re looking for.
indy.gov’s, powerful search engine will help you find reporting information on just about anything.
Go to maps.indy.gov/RequestIndy if you want to:
- Report a tree that’s blocking a road sign or signal
- Report broken or fallen limb(s)
- Report a fallen tree
- Report tree debris
If for you want to prune, plant, treat, or remove a public tree on your terms, you can apply for Flora Permit or call Department of Public Works at 317.327.4000.
If a public tree is touching a power line or threatening to fall on a power line, it’s important to report it as soon as possible. For this reason, it is more beneficial to call the electrical company than the city. Indianapolis residents should call Indianapolis Power & Light (IPL) at 888.261.8222.
If you are still unsure of the best link or phone number to contact, start with the Mayor’s Action Center at 317.327.4622