Reducing the Conflict between Trees and Overhead Utility Lines through Public Awareness and Education

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Virginia Tech

Trees in the built environment often have the potential to grow large enough to touch overhead utility lines, creating a dangerous interaction between the urban forest and utility infrastructure. The purpose of this project is to address the prevalent conflicts between urban forests and utility lines by raising awareness and educating the public of the seriousness of the conflicts and of the possible solutions to manage the conflicts. By creating additional resources that can be used to educate or spread awareness of the importance in preventing the conflict by planting trees of appropriate size and form, homeowners and utility companies could save money on regular tree pruning, tree removal, and costly infrastructure repair that is passed on to the consumer through increased electricity costs. The first product of the project takes advantage of an established online horticultural and arboricultural community webpage, called Plants Map, where the full inventories of five Virginia “utility arboreta” have been uploaded. The utility arboreta were designed to illustrate appropriate trees to plant near and underneath utility lines. Previously, the arboreta displayed limited information on each tree. Plants Map allows visitors of the arboreta to use their smart phones to open a webpage displayed on plant tags that will be purchased for each tree. The second product is a newly written publication for Virginia Cooperative Extension that discusses the necessity for conflicting trees to be removed or pruned, that removing conflicting trees and replacing them with appropriate trees is typically the most cost effective solution, and that trees 25 feet or shorter in height at maturity are the most appropriate to plant underneath utility lines. These two products combine to provide the means for the general public to gain an appreciation of the dangers of tree and utility line conflicts and that planting small trees instead of large ones near utility lines has the potential to save significant amounts of money in future tree care.

Arboriculture, Multimedia, Urban Forestry, Utility Infrastructure, Utility Arboreta