Source: Sherman Publications

Don't Rush Me
What to do when the road commision comes a-callin’
Cutting down trees for safety and/or firewood

by Don Rush

July 06, 2011

A couple of weeks ago, I received an e-mail from a certain Sherrie V, of Groveland Township in regards to trees lining the road, safety concerns and the Road Commission of Oakland County.

For the sake of space conservation, here’s a condensed version of her message . . .


Since 2002, Emerald Ash Borer has killed more than 30 million ash trees in southeastern Michigan alone . . . By 2005 I had over 25 dead ash trees, half of them with diameters over one foot, between my house and Groveland Road. So one day in the winter of 2007, we hired two men to come over and drop those dead trees to the ground. Then my husband and I and some friends cleaned up. We cut larger logs for burning in our wood burning stove, and piled small branches into piles we call rabbit-tat.

. . . The roads out here are tree lined, with above ground utility wires about 20 feet from the edge of the road. And many of the trees that line these roads are now dead ash trees. . . .

. . . The abundance of these trees worries me. I have heard of a few fatalities caused by trees falling on roads during high winds. Just this past September, late in the evening a tree fell into the road here on Groveland Road and a young man hit it, doing a great deal of damage to his car. Fortunately he was not injured.

I’ve called the RCOC for a few years now, expressing my concerns about the danger of dead trees lining the roads. When I was told that the money wasn’t available to cut these trees down, I suggested that they just drop them, leaving the clean up to the many scavengers that would be happy to collect the firewood.

Well, yesterday a crew of I believe six men showed up, and spent the entire day cutting down perhaps a dozen trees, many of them tall, but with small diameters. Only one tree had a diameter of over six inches. They left the trunk of the one large tree, but every other bit of wood was carried off.

The smaller diameter trunks and limbs (perfect for the fireplace) were loaded onto a truck, and the rest of the branches were chipped into mulch. The few pieces of trunk that were left will be picked up by a separate county truck they tell me. Now I can see why it has taken them years to get to my request, and why their work is done at great expense.

If safety is truly the top priority of the road commission, they will concentrate on dropping these trees to the ground and let the local citizens clean up the branches, and limbs. We could use the exercise and the firewood.

Sherrie V

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So, I posed the questions above to Craig Bryson, public relations dude at the RCOC, and here is his response.


Our practice, based on years of experience, is to simply go out and cut down the trees. We don’t approach the homeowners (many times it’s not real clear on large lots in rural areas who the appropriate property owner is). However, the trees are marked days or sometimes weeks ahead of time . . . If they call us or approach at the site, we’re happy to work with them.

However, please keep in mind, our primary objective is to get rid of potentially problematic trees in the road right of way, and to do so as quickly and efficiently as possible — not to provide firewood for area residents . . .

Again, we are more than happy to try to oblige the wishes of the homeowner (to get the wood) if we can do so without impacting our work process, but that is not why we are there. And, while it may seem simple to just provide the wood to the homeowner, years of experience tells us it is often not nearly as simple as it might seem at first blush — the last thing we want to do is get in a dispute over wood. For example, we’ve had residents say, “Yeah, I wanted the wood, but I didn’t realize there would be so much. Can you come back and remove the rest?”

This can cost us a half day of unplanned labor for an entire crew — costly and inefficient, at a time when we’ve got far more trees that need removing than we will ever possibly be able to get to.


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So, when the road commission comes a’callin’, get out there communicate and then follow through.

PS: Thank you to Sherrie and Craig for making this holiday-shortened week’s column easy to write. I love it when a plan comes together!