Frequently Asked Tree Questions 

#1 QUESTION.......I called in a tree evaluation request, how long until something is done?Street Trees reduce surface temperatures!!

ANSWER........There are approximately 8300 trees in the city's public tree inventory. This includes the trees in and around our parks, playgrounds, public buildings and schools. This count does not include trees in our conservation areas, forested park areas and trees adjacent to the reservoir. All are the responsibility of the Parks Departments' two staff Arborists and one tree truck. There is no full time City Forester and/or Tree Warden. Mr. Joseph Gibson has been appointed the Tree Warden/City Forester by the City Council and performs tree evaluations on his limited personal time. The position receives no pay or stipend. 

If you have tree branches in contact with electrical wires please contact National Grid at (800) 322-3223.

During the initial visit the City Forester will perform the following:                           

  1. Identify whether the tree is on the public right of way (City), on private property (If on private property no action can be taken) or a boundary line tree.

  2. Assess the overall health and condition of the tree.

  3. Identify any safety concerns (i.e. branches too low, roots lifting sidewalk, deadwood, etc.)

  4. Determine what 'maintenance category' the tree belongs in. (See bottom of page)

  5. Document the visit and prepare proper work order.

  6. Overall tree maintenance schedule is determined based on prioritizing all work orders. Category 1 is main priority of the Parks Division. Category 2 and 3 work is completed as schedule and weather permits.


#2 QUESTION.......What if I want to do it myself?

ANSWER.......Under the Street Tree Ordinance you may have the tree cared for at your own expense. You will need to visit the Parks Department to obtain a free permit. You may also print the permit by clicking on the icon at the end of this question. Under Rhode Island Law the work must be performed by a Rhode Island Licensed Arborist. The Arborist you select will need to show their Arborist license and proof of liability and workman's compensation insurance(where required) prior to issuance of the permit. You will be required to notify the City Forester when the work is completed for a follow up inspection.

Tree Permit  

#3 QUESTION.......What if I don't like or want the tree in front of my home or business?

ANSWER.......The City of East Providence has spent thousands of dollars each year planting trees. Street trees are an important part of the environment we live in. As such, the City will only remove trees in our right-of-way that are dead or diseased and may create a hazard. Although there may be some exceptions, "don't want to rake leaves anymore", "tree has ants" and "I don't like trees" are not acceptable reasons for a tree removal. Although the tree is in front of one home, as a public tree it belongs to all residents. If a homeowner has tree roots in their sewer line they should contact the Water Utilities Division for guidance. If tree roots are lifting or otherwise creating a hazard to a sidewalk please contact the Parks Division. After entering a request in our electronic system we will  forward it to the Highway Division. If the damaged area can not be ramped the Parks Division will have to remove the tree to allow the Highway Division to replace the sidewalk. Due to the close proximity of our trees to the sidewalks root pruning is not available. If the tree is in the path of property improvements (driveway, new water or sewer line) a permit for removal may be granted by the City Forester. Such a permit WILL require the applicant to remove the tree and stump at their expense. The applicant will also be required to replant, by caliper size, a new tree or trees in areas around the removed tree also at their own expense. The permit will identify the correct species, size and location for planting. Before the permit will be given all necessary building permits must be issued by the Building Department and/or any other City or State Agency that has jurisdiction over the project. 


Street Trees improve the environment

#4 QUESTION.......What if I see someone cutting or damaging a street tree?

ANSWER......Immediately contact the East Providence Police Department at (401)435-7601. The Police Department will forward a copy of the report to the City Forester for further investigation and possible legal action. Damage to a street tree is considered damage to city owned property. The City of East Providence takes this very seriously. There are state statutes and city ordinances specifically for protecting our street tree inventory. For instance, the tree chapter of the East Providence Revised Ordinances allow the City Forester to seek  the total cost of replacing, by caliper size, a damaged street tree.  Cutting a 5" caliper tree would require replanting of two 2.5" trees (largest size used for planting street trees) at $300 per tree. That would be $600 plus the possibility of the additional costs associated with tree removal, repair, etc. 


#5 QUESTION.......What if I would like a tree planted in front of my home or business?

ANSWER.......Our favorite question!!!!!! Please contact the Parks Department at (401)435-7756. We keep a running list of interested home owners. The majority of our tree planting is done with federal community development funds. You must live in a CD area for this type of planting. Every year we have more interest then available trees. The City Council approved a 50/50 plan for street tree planting for homes outside the CD area or those who don't want to wait. The 50/50 program is for Fall tree plantings and only if there is available funding. Tree plantings will be on a first come basis with those choosing to plant outside the City's right of way given first priority. (See NEW below) The average cost for a homeowner is $150.00 per tree. The homeowner must select a street tree from the Parks Department's yearly approved street tree list. The Parks Department (if funding is available) will purchase and plant the tree in the Fall. Unfortunately, due to site requirements, not every property will allow for a street tree.  Homeowners may also choose to plant a tree within the City's right-of-way by forwarding a request for a tree planting permit. Again, the tree species must be approved prior to installation.

NEW: State law allows Municipalities to expend public dollars for planting trees within 20' of the back edge of the public right of way. Trees planted on private property allow for selection of taller species of trees as well as help limit tree interference with power lines, underground utilities, sidewalks and road ways. 


#6 QUESTION.......Who cares? What do trees do for me anyway?Street Trees reduce heating and cooling costs!

ANSWER.......Great Question!!!! All trees, including street trees, provide numerous benefits to both humans and the environment.  Street trees are one of the few public infrastructure improvements that actually increase in value and have the same effect on the neighboring properties. Ever heard of a telephone pole or stop sign that increased property values? Trees help to prevent storm water runoff and erosion. They provide habitats for wildlife and countless other creatures. When selected and planted in correct locations they aid in reducing heating and cooling costs. In parking lots and along streets they help alleviate the heat effects of large areas of concrete and asphalt. They filter pollutants from the air we breath. Trees reduce wind and snow drifts and provide shade and cooling. They enhance community image and help raise property values.  Lastly, many tree species retain quantities of carbon, one of the top green house gasses attributed to increased ozone levels. The Environmental Protection Agency is now researching the effect that Urban forests have on the reduction of green house gasses. In time, they will mandate federal funding based on a communities percent canopy coverage. A recent green house gas initiative reported that Rhode Island could reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 3000 metric tons if it planted 200,000 trees in the next ten years.  In short, for these reasons and many more we all need healthy tree inventories. The Parks Department is committed to maintaining our current percent canopy coverage. That means for every tree we have to take down at least one new one needs to be planted. Want more information? For a presentation prepared by the United States Forest Service regarding the value of street trees in the Northeast.  CLICK HERE


#7 QUESTION.......My private tree fell into the street why didn't you clean it up?

ANSWER.......A fallen tree is always the responsibility of the property owner. In the case of a street tree the City is the owner and our tree crew responds to these calls. When a private tree falls into the City's right-of-way the Parks tree crew is responsible only to remove debris in the roadway that creates a public safety hazard. This may seem like a hardship to the owner, however, this policy allows the resident to contact a private tree crew during normal business hours to remove the fallen tree from their property. Otherwise, the owner would need to contact a tree crew possibly during off hours at a considerably higher rate. These expenses may also include a police detail while waiting for the private company.  Some communities actually charge residents for all costs associated with removing a private tree from public right-of-ways.


Street Trees reduce Greenhouse Gases!!

#8 QUESTION.......You removed the street tree in front of my house and informed me you won't replant, why?

ANSWER.......In many cases the simple answer is the removed tree didn't belong there in the first place. Urban forestry has come a long way over the past 10-15 years. We examine site conditions, utility locations, right-of-way dimensions and many other factors in determining proper tree placement. In addition, the federal ADA (American Disabilities Act) statue removes many streets from any tree planting program. Due to the minimum ADA width requirements some right-of-ways can no longer legally have sidewalks along with street trees. One new option is the recently passed Rhode Island General Law that allows the use of municipal dollars to plant beyond the public right-of-way by up to twenty feet. This actually allows the use of larger trees as interference with utility wires and sidewalks is reduced. If your interested in replanting on your property (within that twenty feet) please call us so we can add you to our tree planting list. (NOTE:residents who request a tree to be planted on thier property within the twenty feet mark are given priority whenever new tree planting funds are found)


Tree maintenance categories:

Category One: Dead, weakened or diseased tree with significant stem rot. Tree has majority of it's crown bare. Tree has been declining for many seasons and may be considered a safety hazard. This category is a year round top priority.

Category Two: Tree containing dead limbs, symptoms of overall poor health, poor crown/leaf development. Cankers or other damage to trunk or limbs. Limbs contacting home or other structure (This is a low priority within this category.) NOTE: If limbs, including street trees,  are contacting electrical service lines please contact National Grid at (800) 322-3223.

Category Three: Trees requiring thinning, shaping or other mostly aesthetic tree care needs. Work in this category is performed predominately in the winter, as weather permits.