Beaufort arborist to work with DOT on local tree trimming over roadways

Beaufort’s tree expert will work closely with state Department of Transportation crews this month as DOT prepares to trim back trees along roadsides in Beaufort and Port Royal.

“The idea,” said Eliza Hill, arborist for the city of Beaufort, “is to identify significant trees that may be affected so that we can improve traffic safety and protect the health of the urban forest. Our trees, especially our oaks, are an essential part of our Lowcountry look, history and ecology.”

Her work to review the DOT route and trees to be trimmed will begin Tuesday. The DOT trimming crews could begin their work next week, starting in Port Royal. The limb-cutting isn’t related to pruning over utility lines.

Department of Transportation standards call for 18-foot clearances over roadways. Trees identified as “significant” may have limbs below 18-feet but not below 14-feet. Any limb 14-feet or closer to the road must be removed, Hill said. For example, traditional partial canopies such as over parts of Ribaut Road in Beaufort will be protected as much as possible.

“We are pleased that we can work together on this with the Town of Port Royal and the state DOT,” Beaufort City Manager Scott Dadson said. “Safe travel and safe roads are critical, but we also think our trees play a big role in our sense of place, of what makes Beaufort still be Beaufort.”

In an effort to protect the valued trees in Beaufort and Port Royal, Hill said she and Beaufort Public Works staff may preemptively prune some trees prior to the DOT’s work.

“Beaufort, Port Royal and the South Carolina DOT are working together on this. They understand how sensitive and protective we are about our trees and their importance to our local environment and history,” Hill said.

“We also must accept that DOT has standards to keep the roadways safe for all vehicles, and that includes the overhead clearance,” she said.

As part of the agreement with DOT, Hill said that Public Works’ staff will perform any necessary “corrective” pruning and DOT will haul away the debris. Beaufort follows the Tree Care Industry Association’s ANSI A300 standards for pruning. The association provides extensive recommendations and guidelines for trimming branches.