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Tree inspections are underway at city parks with Easter camping nearing

The goal is to make sure thousands of campers remain safe over the Easter holiday.

SAN ANTONIO — It's one of the city's most time-honored traditions: camping in Brackenridge Park for the long Easter holiday weekend.

But this year, after seven people were injured by a huge tree branch crashing to the ground at the San Antonio Zoo, city officials said they are doing everything they can to make sure everyone who shows up to celebrate will remain safe.

City Forester Michael Holinsky said, "We are going through and identifying those trees that need the most attention. Especially the ones that are a little bit riskier, you will notice that we do have fencing around them just to ensure that no one enters the area where they could become injured by a tree."

Holinsky said workers are busy cleaning and preparing for the big weekend, and he believes all the most important work will be complete.

"On the docket for removal, we have four trees that are completely dead, or in a state of decay. All of those trees have been cordoned off to make sure no one can become injured by them. But the goal is to have them removed by Easter weekend," Holinsky said.

Holinsky added park staff are on duty every day and they are trained to report any major problems, but they appreciate help from the public.

"The more information you can give us the better. Of course we can't have eyes everywhere all the time and trees, being a living organism can change at the drop of a hat, so if something is noticed, it is highly encouraged. That people call 311 and report it and we will address it.

With regard to the incident at the zoo in which a tree that had begun to sprout and appeared as if it might be healthy gave way, Holinsky said, "Trees can look completely and totally healthy and there can be some thing happening underground. There can be something happening high up in the canopy that we're not seeing."

Holinsky said it's important for everyone to remain vigilant while enjoying the best nature has to offer.

"It is one of the most beautiful park systems I have ever seen, packed full of trees, and we love having help from the public and identifying any tree issues," Holinsky said.

The City's Parks and Recreation Department provided the following statement on the issue of safety:

"The public's safety and the safety of our team is a priority. Several City Departments manage and/or maintain the City's tree canopy in public spaces including the Center City Development and Operations Department (River Walk), the Parks and Recreation Department, and Development Services Department. These teams include certified and experienced horticulturists, arborists, foresters, and gardeners who respond to immediate needs such as clean-up efforts after a storm and long-term needs such as pruning, planting, watering, and removing damaged, dead or diseased trees, when needed. 

Signs of Tree Stress

Trees respond in many different ways to a variety of stressors. Stress factors may include the age of the tree, environmental conditions, location of the tree, and soil conditions, just to name a few. Dropping limbs, discoloration in the leaves, early loss of leaves, or death are some common stress responses in trees. 

To report fallen limbs or other tree concerns in public spaces, please call 311 and the appropriate City Department will respond. If you have concerns about trees on your property, we recommend consulting a certified arborist. Verify that the company is insured and certified by the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA)." 

Arborist Dayton Archer said he has been hired by the San Antonio Zoo to do a risk assessment of all their trees.  Archer said, "We are doing the best we can, but the take away is trees have very low risk. They give us a lot of benefits for not very much risk."  Archer said he doesn't believe anyone planning an Easter outing should be afraid.

"All trees have some risk, that is a fact  But it is very rare that they fail and hit somebody, as compared to how often is there a car wreck in town? Every single day there are a bunch. But people are shocked when a tree falls and hits somebody because it happens so rarely.

Archer said that just like with every activity, paying attention is important.

"Don't be paranoid about it, but be smart! Pay attention to your surroundings. Look up and if there is something, that is obviously dangerous, you probably shouldn't camp there," Archer said. 

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