Emerging tree roots are making city paths dangerous. What is the City doing to keep paths safe for strollers and bicycles?

Yes, this has become an issue on our more than 200-plus miles of trails and pathways across our city. It’s complicated, but there is a new solution we are excited to share.

First, the trees: There are certain types of trees that are more troublesome than others. Honey Locust trees, for example, were trees used in many projects in the late 1990s. Our current standard on streetscapes where there are multi-use paths is an 8-foot tree lawn strip to plant shade trees. Generally, pear and maple trees are the most numerous of concern on rooting issues and currently neither are on our Street Department’s recommended tree list. As the city has grown and annexed areas, we are adjusting our city standards to provide the best results for trees and paths. If the roots are affecting the paths or sidewalks to a point the structure of the tree is in question, then the Street Department will advise and we review the case to case situation on if tree removal is necessary.

Second, the assessment of paths: The City of Carmel hired a private company this year – StreetScan – which scanned every street and road in Carmel this summer. This technology scans the surface for discrepancies such as cracks, defects, and rutting. Based on what this survey finds, we will prioritize our paving schedule next year.

If the roots are affecting the paths or sidewalks to a point the structure of the tree is in question…

With the amount of paths we have, it can also get very burdensome to evaluate these “in house” to that detail. We have already reached out to the company that provided the StreetScan service and they have the ability to scan our trails and pathways with the same technology. This would give us the most accurate objective baseline condition reports of our path inventory.

Once we receive that data, we can have a much more robust and directed plan of maintenance. We will have the ability to compile a list of areas that have root problems across the City in a matter of minutes and be able to address it a more timely fashion.

Authored by Laura Campbell, Sue Finkam, Kevin Rider, Jeff Worrell, Miles Nelson, Anthony Green and Adam Aasen.