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Block Watch | Seneca Gardens History
Seneca Gardens Tree
In 1987, a localized
downburst destroyed 100 mature oaks and maples in Seneca Gardens. A year
later I was asked by former mayor, Jim MacDonald, to replace the fallen
Since that time, Seneca
Gardens has subsidized the planting of about 1000 trees. The mission
was to plant trees that will live for 100 years and give our
neighborhood a sense of stability. The program expanded to include
decorative trees like dogwoods and redbuds, but the primary effort
remains the replacement of grand overstory trees.
The storm that
destroyed so many trees in 1987 was a disaster, but what followed may be
the most unique tree planting program in the United States. Rather than
replace the fallen pin oaks with other pin oaks, we planted multiple
varieties of oaks, many of them natives which thrive in our climate and
calcareous soils. Instead of replanting the destroyed red maples with
limited choices, we found dozens of maple varieties.
We planted ginkgos,
elms, sassafras, beeches, cypress, dawn redwoods, black gums, Turkish
hazelnuts, sycamores, katsuras, magnolias and yellowwoods in addition to
oaks and maples. Each one of those species has multiple forms such as
weeping, fastigiate, or variegated. Over time, our tree planting program
created a neighborhood arboretum in the front yards of Seneca Gardens
which can be viewed from our sidewalks and streets.
Since the storm of 1987
we have continued to lose our grand old trees, but less dramatically,
one at a time, to old age, pollution, restricted roots, and
construction. We lose five to ten large trees a year. That gradual loss
adds up. We have lost more trees to attrition since 1987 than we lost
in that storm.
That slow loss will
continue. In my lifetime, I expect we will lose almost every large tree
in Seneca Gardens, even without devastating storms.
This is why Seneca
Gardens continues to subsidize tree planting long after the 1987 storm.
There is a saying in the tree business which states that the best time
to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now. We
started planting almost 20 years ago and we are still planting now.
Seneca Gardens Tree
The Seneca Gardens residents value their trees. To support this value,
the City of Seneca Gardens subsidizes tree planting and removal of
hazardous trees in public easements.
Seneca Gardens will
pay up to half the cost of planting a tree in residents' front yards
with a limit of $150 per house per year. The choice and site of the tree
must be approved by the city arborist before installation. There are
three reasons for this requirement of pre-approval. 1) Seneca Gardens
will not subsidize problematic or invasive trees. 2) The Seneca Gardens
arborist can offer information and advice to make the tree successful
over the long term. 3) The budget is limited so subsidy for new trees
must fit into that year's budget.
Seneca Gardens will
participate in the cost of removing hazardous trees in the public
easements. Seneca Gardens will pay 30% if the tree is in the public
easement, defined as 20 feet from the edge of the street pavement. If
the tree trunk is outside the easement, in private property, but the
immediately against the easement line so that half of the tree hangs
over the public easement, Seneca Gardens will pay half subsidy, i.e.
15%. Seneca Garden's limit on this process is $500.
cannot force a homeowner to remove a hazard tree which threatens public
safety; however, Metro Louisville can. In that case, Metro Louisville
will require that the homeowner pay the entire cost. Also, if the
home/tree owner is aware of a tree's hazardous condition and does
nothing to resolve the hazardous condition prior to tree causing
property damage to others, homeowner will be held legal liable.
Homeowner cannot use "Act of God" defense.
Each year Seneca
Gardens reviews the tree subsidy policy. The subsidy is subject to
change depending on the requirement to balance the city budget.
Seneca Gardens Arborist
Email Michael at