THIRD BAYSHORE CONDOMINIUM STRIPS ITS PALM TREES
At the end of July, 2004, Third Bayshore Condominiums in Bradenton, Florida called in a cutting and hauling crew to chainsaw most of the fronds from its 270 palm trees. This cost the condominium about $5000 and left the trees damaged.
The Board of Directors had discussed trimming the palms with the professionally recommended "9-to-3" cut after the growing season. This means removing mostly brown foliage below the midline of the crown. Arborists (tree experts) advise this as the healthiest way to trim palms, if trimming is to be done at all. Removing green fronds is bad practice because it takes away the palms' food. Even removing yellow fronds is not advised, since the palms benefit from their stored nutrition. Severe trimming should not be done before or during the summer when they are in growing season.
Underscoring this, Manatee County Urban Forestry Manager William Bors had previously sent a letter advising the Board that pruning of palms should generally be limited.
In this case the Grounds Committee, with the agreement of the property manager, called for the cutting on a fast-track basis. The crews drove in to Palm Lane on a Saturday and Grounds Chairwoman Agnes White told them to "Hurricane Cut" the trees. This harsh trimming leaves only about 5 or 6 fronds still alive on top. Truckloads of green fronds were hauled away.
Shortly after the cutting began Board President Bill Rials, displaying the Forestry Manager's letter, tried to intervene with the cutters and temporarily succeeded in having them switch to the recommended "9-to-3" cut. But the property manager told them to return to "hurricane cutting" and the job was completed that way. At the next Board meeting he said there were no state or local regulations requiring him to do otherwise.
This example shows why legislation is needed to stop hurricane cutting. Individuals making uninformed decisions can quickly cause harm to many trees, and after they are cut it is too late. In Manatee County such cutting is strongly discouraged by County environmental officials. In some places in Florida, such as Broward County, "hurricane cutting" on private property is outlawed. Arborists uniformly agree that the practice is harmful.
The following pages show before-and-after photos of what was done to the Third Bayshore Condominium's palms that weekend.
Updates === In February 2006, the palms were about to be "hurricane cut" again. The Board held a meeting to approve the contract -- but tabled it, when the management company changed it to specify a "9-to-3" cut, instead of a hurricane cut. This was prompted by a letter from the Urban Forestry Manager saying that the palms looked healthy and cutting wasn't needed. The Board and Grounds Chairwoman Teresa Levesque, however, ignored all professional advice, including a presentation in April to the Board on tree care by Manatee County Environmental Administrator Doug Means at a Board meeting. As soon as he left, and disregarding his advice, the Board voted to immediately hurricane cut. The trees were cut within a week. We will post details of this remarkable meeting here including transcripts and audio of the Environmental Administrator's informative talk. Despite further letters, visits and advice from the County, hurricane cutting continued to be ordered by Levesque in 2007, when Brown's Tree Service cut 70% of the green fronds from the palms.