New BI arborist to keep folks from barking up wrong tree

Trees are deeply rooted with love from Bainbridge Islanders, and the city has hired a new arborist to help folks.

In April, the city published tree regulation updates and hired an arborist to help with conserving and managing the forested areas and native vegetation that are integral to BI’s character and livability.

Arborist Drue Morris has been busy issuing permits and doing site visits. She’s been meeting residents in person and looking at trees all over the island letting people know that she’s available when they need advice on planting and protecting trees, applying for permits or consulting with tree removals.

Morris lives in Seattle, but her family roots are in Wisconsin where she earned a degree in horticulture with an emphasis on arboriculture from a technical college and a bachelor’s degree in sustainable management from the University of Wisconsin-Stout.

When people are submitting building permits Morris helps them with their tree permits as well.

“That’s an opportunity for me to be involved with the review of what trees are going to be removed,” she said. “I’m here if you’re going to be putting in additions or remodeling. You’ll want some advice about protecting your trees and how to mitigate the risk to them. When doing things like that, I’m here to answer any questions about long-term planning for trees.”

Morris plans to offer classes on tree safety, proper pruning, health assessments, and planting and encourages people to be active in the management of their trees, “so we can catch things before they become a big issue.”

She said trees are important to the island ecosystem and offer many benefits, they are aesthetically pleasing and good for our overall well-being. They provide habitat for insects and wildlife, sequester carbon, clean the air and recharge the aquifer. For homeowners, trees aid with cooling and heating costs and offer protection from winds. They aid with water retention and their shade allows roads to degrade at a slower rate, leading to less road replacement and fewer chemicals being used.

“Though much of Bainbridge Island’s old-growth forest is gone, there are still a lot of really old specimens left that are 100- to 200-years old,” Morris said. “Things just grow so fast here. Giant Sequoia and Coastal Redwood are the two redwood varieties that we have here, and both are the fastest-growing trees there are. Douglas Fir is also pretty fast. If the conditions are right, and they’re getting a lot of water and nutrition, they can achieve a pretty substantial size without being that old.”

With her eyes on the trees, Morris has found a favorite that she passes daily on her walk from the ferry to City Hall. “It’s a Doug Fir, and it’s got great big chunky bark. It’s growing in a really urban area, still hanging on and doing its thing. That tree makes me really happy on my walk to work every morning.”