By Amy Wenk

amywenk@reporternewspapers.net

The 35-year-old Peachtree Battle Alliance (PBA) always has made park maintenance a priority and in 2006 launched a tree replacement program called Greening the Alliance: Restoring the Urban Forest.

Hundreds of trees have been added through workdays with Trees Atlanta and plantings by Clean Water Atlanta tree recompense contractors, who must replace trees removed for sewer work.

“Many of the efforts that we are bringing to bear on trees in the PBA neighborhood have to do with new trees because we are very committed to restoring the tree canopy of our neighborhood,” said Judy Tindel, the chairwoman of the PBA parks committee. The alliance serves 578 residents in the Haynes Manor, Peachtree Heights Park and Westover neighborhoods.

Now the alliance hopes to branch out to the preservation of elderly trees through a proposed program called Caring for the Seniors.

Those older trees “are part of our family in the alliance,” Tindel said. “They are what give our neighborhood such character. They provide shade and environmental benefits. They provide habitat for wildlife in the community.”

“So to me, this is an opportunity to return some of the care to the trees that they offer to us and also to help our community learn about the needs of maintaining and caring for senior trees.”

Tindel won the endorsement of Neighborhood Planning Unit C (NPU-C) on March 3 for an application for a Park Pride Community Micro Grant to finance Caring for the Seniors.

If it is awarded the $1,000 grant May 15, the alliance will provide the rest of the $2,500 needed for the project.

“I’m really glad when people in the community volunteer their time to go out and get money and bring it into our NPU,” NPU-C Chairman Eric Ranney said.

The money would go toward hiring ArborMedics, an Alpharetta-based company run by Chris Hastings.

“Chris is a phenomenal arborist,” Tindel said, noting that Hastings’ mother was a member of the Habersham Garden Club, which has maintained green space in the alliance area since 1932. “I really feel like he is the perfect person to do this work because he has grown up with the trees. He knows their history from a personal standpoint, and now he can bring his horticultural expertise to help us care for these old trees.”

The certified arborist and his crew would spend a couple of days in the 4.22-acre median parks along Peachtree Battle Avenue, conducting corrective pruning, soil testing and fertilization, and tree canopy evaluation.

“I do see this as a community education project,” Tindel said. “Many of our residents also have trees of this age and this size on their private properties.”

The area contains native white oaks and Southern red oaks that are 100 to 250 years old, Hastings said. But the most troubled senior trees are the approximately 80-year-old water oaks, which were popular to plant when the neighborhoods were developed between 1910 and 1927.

“Those trees were easy to grow and easy to dig back in the day,” Hastings said. Production techniques were limited, and “there were very few shade trees available in the market because the nursery men had to grow and dig them all by hand.”

But water oaks begin to falter in urban areas after 75 years.

Modern care, he said, can extend the lives of some trees 20 or 30 years. But others could be beyond help.

“Part of my job as an arborist is to take the mystery out of it,” Hastings said, noting people are often confused about water oaks. “A water oak can be at 80 years old the same size as a white oak that might be 200. They grow much faster and put on a lot of bulk in the trunk.”

Caring for the Seniors would provide much-needed public education toward preserving, restoring and maintaining the urban forest.

“It’s so tough to find a balance between progress and maintaining the green environment that we enjoy in Atlanta and have for so long,” Tindel said. “But when we have pockets of residential land like we do in the Peachtree Battle Alliance neighborhood with beautiful, old green space, we really need to care for it. It’s a very valuable resource.”

Tindel is also considering seeking another grant for the renovation and restoration of Woodward Park, 1.67 acres at the corner of Woodward Way and Habersham Road. The site was deeded as a part of Sibley Park but was overlooked and has fallen into disrepair.

“It’s a little forgotten treasure of green space in Buckhead that needs to be cared for,” said Tindel, who has initiated discussions with the neighborhood. “I’m excited about the project, but I just can’t tell you at this moment exactly where we’ll end up going with it yet.”