M-119 Tree Removal Project

Posted on January 24th, 2023

Soon, the City will begin work to remove large pine trees on the north side of M-119 between Hoyt Street and Park (Lake) Street (along Bay Bluffs and the Skate Park). M-119 will temporarily be detoured. Please see below for more information about the project and the plan going forward.

Threat to the City’s power

The primary electric line that carries power to the City enters from the east along the north side of M-119, running in front of Bay Bluffs Medical Care Facility.  This line provide power to Bay Bluffs as well as much of the City.

Also located in front of Bay Bluffs is a row of large, mature pine trees planted decades ago.  Typically, pine trees can get very tall, up to 200’ and are characterized by full evergreen foliage at the top and shallow roots below. These factors combine to increase the risk of breakage or uprooting in high winds or under ice and snow loads in storms (think the downtown Christmas tree this past year!).  Also of concern is the unbalanced canopies in these trees, created by heavy pruning over the years needed to keep the overhead utility lines clear.  No matter what, a number of the pines along this stretch are declining and will need to be removed in the near future, leaving the remaining ones more vulnerable to severe winds or storms.

All of these factors have led to serious concern about the safety of this critical power line.  Several years ago, the City began looking at options to protect it. 

Why not run the primary line and other utilities underground?

Due to the proximity of the large pine trees to the overhead lines on M-119, the process of trying to save the pines by burying the overhead wires could prove to be their undoing.  During construction, the root systems of the large pines will likely be damaged on one side.  This poses an immediate risk to the tree as well as an increased potential for the trees to uproot in the future.  

The cost of burying the lines would be over $400,000, not including any additional costs incurred in repairing damage to the Bay Bluffs parking lot or other infrastructure. Further, the costs could significantly exceed $400,000 if methods to minimize impact to tree roots (like horizontal boring) are used.  The cost to remove the trees will be around $40,000 plus the cost of new trees.  While cost is not the only factor when deciding the pros and cons of projects, in this case the cost is significant.

The Plan – Replace the large pines with trees that will mature to a size that won’t interfere with the overhead wires

The Harbor Springs Tree Board has provided recommendations to the City on more sustainable trees to replace the pines.  One of the Tree Board’s main goals is to create a healthy urban forest and one of the means to accomplish is through diversity.  One of the first decisions was not to replace the pines with a monoculture (all one species). The new trees were selected for their hardiness, tolerance of road salt and interest throughout the seasons, with sequential flowering, stunning fall color and brilliant red fruit in the winter, see below.   Due to their more moderate mature size, the new trees, when mature, will not pose a threat to the City’s power supply.  

‘Cleveland Select’ Flowering Pear

https://woodyplants.nres.uiuc.edu/plant/pyrcach

‘Donald Wyman’ Crabapple

https://woodyplants.nres.uiuc.edu/plant/maldw01

‘Ivory Silk’ Japanese Tree Lilac

https://woodyplants.nres.uiuc.edu/plant/syrreis

While few people will be happy about losing the pines, the risk of losing power at Bay Bluffs and the rest of the City needs to be addressed.  Let’s all look forward this spring to a new streetscape along M-119 and more reliable electric power! 

In the meantime, we need your help, please donate a tree for this important project!  The form can be found on the City’s website at https://www.cityofharborsprings.com/municipal-services/donate-a-tree-program/ or call Victor Sinadinoski, City Manager at (231) 526-2104.