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Hinesville 'tree expert' shares landscaping tips
Kenna Graham parks  grounds supervisor point to roots of an oak tree that are cracking the pavement on South Main St.
Kenna Graham, Hinesville parks and grounds supervisor, points Wednesday at the roots of an oak tree that are cracking the pavement on South Main Street. - photo by Photo by Randy C. Murray

For the 24th year, Hinesville has earned the national designation of Tree City USA, according to a news release from the Arbor Day Foundation.
The foundation partners with the U.S. Forest Service and the National Association of State Foresters to bestow the title on cities that demonstrate commitments to effective urban-forest management. The news release said cities recognized have met the program’s requirements to have a tree board or department, a tree-care ordinance, an annual community forestry budget of at least $2 per capita and an Arbor Day observance and proclamation.
The release said tree management provides communities with cleaner air, improved storm-water management, energy savings, increased property values and increased commercial activities.
Kenna Graham, parks and grounds supervisor with the Hinesville Public Works Department, said studies have found that businesses that invest in trees for landscaping attract more customers.
Graham, a certified arborist, is referred to as the city’s “tree expert” by Gregg Higgins, director of CH2MHILL/OMI, which Graham has been with for 13 years.
“To get certified, I had to pass a 200-question test by the International Society of Arboriculture,” Graham said. “First, though, I had to work three years in the field. I studied about trees a lot on my own. I love trees. I love the outdoors.”
Graham showed off some of the city’s recent landscaping projects Wednesday, including freshly planted ornamental trees at the Public Works Department,
“We like to use an organic mulch or pine straw around trees,” Graham said, pointing to trees along Veterans Parkway near Walmart. “I prefer pine bark or mulch, but that won’t work for trees like these crape myrtles that are planted on a slope. The first good rain that comes will wash your mulch away.”
He stopped the service vehicle next to a newly planted tree he identified as a Chinese pistachio tree. As he pruned a dead limb, he explained the root system, particularly the functions of tap roots and lateral roots.
“Before I studied arboriculture, I always thought that roots were responsible for absorbing nutrients from the soil,” he said. “Actually, it’s a symbiotic relationship roots form with a fungus called mycorrhiza. This fungus grows on the roots, drawing out the nutrients from the soil. In exchange, the roots give the fungi carbohydrates and sugars. The reason many trees die in the first month after they’re planted is because they never formed that relationship.”
On South Main Street, Graham pointed to what was causing the bump in the road near Realty Executives and the Family Dollar store. A large root of an oak tree is pushing its way under the street, creating what feels like a speed bump to motorists.
Graham admitted that his department can’t do much about that sort of root problem. Cutting the root could kill the tree. If the root becomes more of a hazard than an inconvenience, he said they’d have to cut the tree down.
Reiterating his love for trees, he said motorists should accept the inconvenience of the bump and allow the tree to live. The big oak tree probably was there first, anyway.

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