Tree Maintenance Requests Soar in Village

Following two tornadoes in the span of one week earlier this year, many residents in the village are seeking ways to man-age the trees on and around their property. The covenants and guidelines should always be referred to before taking any measures regarding tree removal. These documents are generally provided during the closing/settlement on your home. The guide-lines are also available at under the Covenants tab, along with Exterior Alteration Applications.Here are answers to residents’ most common questions when it comes to trees:

What is a “street tree?”

A street tree is a tree in the public right of way, such as the trees in the pits/strips along the sidewalk. Street trees are a great way to spruce up the block. They provide aesthetic, environmental, economic, and social benefits such as providing shade in the summer and oxygen year-round. Street trees are planted in accordance with regulations set by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. Healthy street trees cannot be removed with-out permission.

My street tree doesn’t look healthy. What’s wrong with it and what should I do about it?

There are several types of street trees commonly found in River Hill – Ash, Bradford Pear, Locust, and Oak.

Ash – Due to emerald ash borer infestation, Howard County’s Department of Public Works’ removal of ash trees along various county-owned roadways throughout Clarksville, Columbia, Cooksville, Dayton, Elkridge, Ellicott City, Glenelg and Glenwood has begun. Weather permitting, the trees (stumps and all) will be removed by the end of winter with all trees replaced, where appropriate, by spring 2020. The county will not be removing any trees located on private property. Signs of the emerald ash borer infestation include death of twigs and branches at the treetops, discolored leaves, water sprouts and D-shaped holes in the bark where the larvae emerge. Residents who spot signs of infestation on their ash trees are asked to contact Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) at 410-841-5920. For questions or concerns about ash tree removal, contact Lisa Brightwell, Public Works Customer Service, at 410-313-3440 or email

Bradford Pear – Although beautiful and tolerant of poor soil and pollution, the Bradford pear has many problems that cause it to have a short life span. Poor structure, a slender profile and weak wood are major problems with Bradford pear trees. This tree type often splits apart in wind or ice storms. These trees are also more susceptible to damage from boring and sucking insects such as aphids, and fungal diseases such as fire blight. Insect pests and diseases are not usually fatal to the tree. Fire blight is caused by bacteria, which spreads through the tree quickly. Signs of fire blight disease include canker sores on wood, brownish liquid oozing from wood, burnt-looking twigs, discolored leaves, early defoliation of leaves.

Locust – Outbreaks of the locust leafminer occur practically every year, and thousands of black locusts turn brown and are de-foliated. Trees that are defoliated seldom die. The locust leafminer is a serious pest of black locust. Black locust is the favorite host for the adult beetles, but they will occasionally attack apple, birch, beech, cherry, elm, oak, and hawthorn. Heavily infested trees appear scorched or burned.

Oak – Recently there have been complaints of oak trees declining and dying. Two common leaf diseases of oaks in Maryland are oak anthracnose and bacterial leaf scorch of oak. Symptoms of oak anthracnose range from small brown spots and irregular dead areas on distorted leaves to severe blight that kills twigs and causes leaf shriveling. Bacterial leaf scorch is caused by a bacterium which causes scattered yellowing and browning of the leaf margins throughout the canopy but not much leaf drop.

Who is responsible for maintaining the street trees?

The county is responsible for the maintenance of street trees. It may be necessary to perform minor maintenance though if you see that the street trees have sprouted low-growing “suckers.” Trees send up suckers as a reaction to stress and/or drought. You can and should simply remove the suckers and keep up on the job as they appear. As the tree ages it will be more prone to suckers and this may just be how you have to manage it for the foreseeable future because the county will not come out to simply prune suckers off of street trees. If the suckers have gotten so tall that they are blocking road signs or sight lines, the county will come out to remove those. Diseased, dying or dead street trees should be reported to the county via the See, Click, Fix app. It can be accessed at or in the App store on your mobile device.

What is the county’s trimming schedule?

Howard County Administration’s HWYS Dayton (central) office reports that they are on a 10- to 12-year trim cycle and the Village of River Hill is not scheduled for trimming at this time. Much of the area throughout River Hill was trimmed in 2011.

What are the county guidelines for removal of street trees?

The Bureau of Highways-Tree Division works to make county roads safer for the traveling public by elevating tree limbs along the County Right-of-Way, removing tree limbs that have fallen in the road, and removing dead trees from the County Right-of-Way. Use See Click Fix for reporting street tree concerns and other things like streetlight outages, etc. If a street tree is 75-100% dead, the county will come to remove it. Tree-related emergencies must be dealt with immediately. If a situation demands urgent attention, such as a fallen tree in the road which impedes traffic, call 410-313-7450 during business hours, Monday through Friday. Do not send emergency requests by email or via See Click Fix, as there might be a delayed response. During off hours, please contact the police at 410-313-2200 for help with blocked roadways. For any non-emergency situation, please call or email the Bureau, and your concern will be addressed. Email: or use:

Who is responsible for handling street tree branches which are starting to encroach on my private property?

Property owners generally have the right to self-remedy if tree roots or branches encroach on or threaten to damage their private property. The county does not generally assist in removing plant material from private property. In addition, the county will not trim branches around privately-owned wires and cables. BGE, Verizon and Comcast have the right and obligation to maintain their own wire and cables. If a resident is worried about tree branches growing too near utility wires, please contact the appropriate utility company directly.

Is an Exterior Alteration Application needed for removal of trees on private property?

An Exterior Alteration Application is required to be submitted for a removal of any tree or trees whose trunk is over 20” in circumference (7 inches in diameter) when measured at a point 2-feet above ground, planting more than one tree, relocating and replanting of trees, and any planting that will be used as a hedge.

What is Maryland tree law?

When a neighbor’s tree or any tree or tree branch falls on your property, you are responsible for cleaning it up even if it’s not your tree. If this happens and it damages your property, you and/or your insurance company will be responsible for any damage unless you have formally informed your neighbor, both verbally and in writing, that you think their tree is in danger of falling and dam-aging your property.

What about Open Space trees?

CA’s Open Space Management is responsible for trees and grass in the areas along and behind the pathways. CA’s Open Space Management team plans, develops, manages and maintains Columbia’s impressive green spaces. Residents can help protect the open space. If you see downed or hazardous trees, vandalism or illegal dumping, or notice facilities that need attention, contact them at 410-312-6330 or by email to


0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply