City not leaving tree care to chance

Geese walk in front of trees in September 2022 at Spring Lake Park in Texarkana, Texas. (Staff photo by Mallory Wyatt)
Geese walk in front of trees in September 2022 at Spring Lake Park in Texarkana, Texas. (Staff photo by Mallory Wyatt)

TEXARKANA, Texas -- Changing of seasons and weather circumstances bring new challenges to even the most green-thumbed tree owner.

City Manager David Orr said Texarkana, Texas, partners with the New Boston branch of Texas A&M Forest Service to maintain tree health and provide tree doctoring services.

"We follow the Texas A&M Forest Service recommendations on planting new trees and diversification of our tree canopy," Orr said. "Typically, we use native species that are recommended for our region."

The city also collaborates with Arkansas Forestry Service, the city of Texarkana, Ark., and the newly reinstated Keep Texarkana Beautiful committee to host an annual Arbor Day tree giveaway at Spring Lake Park in March.

"We average approximately 1,200 bare-root seedlings that are given away to the public each year," Orr said. "The event began almost a decade ago and over 10,000 trees have been given away for planting in the community over that time."

Orr said city accountants allocate tree planting funding each year through the federal Community Development Block Grant program.

"We also receive grants for trees, including a $13,000 grant last year from the Wilbur Smith Rotary Club to plant new trees throughout downtown and around the U.S. federal courthouse and post office," Orr said.

Forester John Hawkins said the Texas A&M Forest Service, which covers Bowie, Red River and Lamar counties, provides assistance with sick trees and homeowners planning where to put trees.

"We take a lot of (tree) requests from landowners. We go out and look at the place and see what it would take to get it back into shape, we make recommendations," Hawkins said.

Hawkins said cities often handle dead or sick trees with their maintenance department but that the Forest Service helps with tree inventories.

"We have done some causes with them in the past, as far as planning, tree inventories, that sort of thing at Spring Lake Park," Hawkins said. "It's so they knew what they had as far as inventory: ID, what the health of the tree was, if anything that needed to be done at the present time."

He said he encouraged tree owners to provide water to plants during the summer and to prune trees during the winter.

"This time of year I try to prune a lot of the dead wood damage," Hawkins said. "This is the time of year you want pruning. When the temperatures are warm we have a lot of moisture at that time; it's real conducive for fungus in trees, bacteria. A lot of time fungus will hit those trees pretty hard during the summer time."

Hawkins said winter provides time for trees to heal, but encouraged tree owners to put mulch over the roots of the tree to manage and provide a barrier to the roots during a cold spell.

Hawkins' main piece of advice to tree owners is to think ahead when planning to plant a tree.

"Know where you're planting at. A lot of people plant trees in bad spots," Hawkins said. "For the first five years in the life of that tree, it's fine, but 20 years down the road, you've got it to the right side of your driveway or right under the utility line. What do you expect the utility company to do?"

Hawkins said big trees next to driveways can have large root systems that damage concrete.

The city of Texarkana, Arkansas could not be reached for comment.

(For tree planting tips, visit

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