Urban Forestry

Recreation, Parks and Open Space tree crews are responsible for the management of approximately 200,000 trees throughout the city, 80,000 of which are considered street trees (trees that line the city's streets, between the road and sidewalk). Noting the abundance of trees throughout Norfolk, the rating scale below is utilized to provide Norfolk residents with the best possible service and a clear understanding of how tree trimming, removal, and replacement is prioritized.

Prioritization

The main priority of the city's tree management is public safety, therefore those trees posing an immediate safety concern are prioritized first. Norfolk's Tree Mitigation Standards (PDF). Necessary tree work is rated on a 1 to 4 scale, 1 being the highest priority. 

1. Emergency

  • Trees that pose an immediate risk to public safety and should be pruned or removed as soon as possible
  • A tree that is actively uprooting or splitting and could fall at any moment and may cause significant harm to the public or property.
  • A tree or limb that has fallen and is blocking traffic.
  • A tree or limb that has fallen on an occupied structure or automobile.

2. Urgent

  • A tree where uprooting or splitting is not actively progressing.
  • A tree that is significantly blocking traffic lights or stop signs, warning lights or signs at school crosswalks, and significantly impedes clear vision of vehicular traffic.
  • Dying or recently dead standing trees that do not pose an immediate risk to public safety.
  • Damaged or dead limbs greater than two inches in diameter that do not pose an immediate risk to public safety.
  • Trees with significant structural defects that could lead to failure at some point in the near future.
  • Failed limbs/branches in yard or lawn strip between the sidewalk and street curb.

3. Routine

  • Trees with progressive decay and/or in decline.
  • Trees with poor structure.
  • Limbs or branches touching buildings or other structures.

4. Winter

  • Crape myrtle and other tree species suckers (sprouts from the base of the tree).
  • Low hanging limbs over sidewalks.

Pruning

Due to the amount of safety-related workload, city tree crews only remove the basal sucker sprouts (small stems emerging from the base of the tree) from crape myrtles as necessary, during the winter months. Since it is not possible for city tree crews to prune all crape myrtles or other trees each year, residents are encouraged to remove basal sucker sprouts and small low hanging limbs/branches (1-inch diameter and smaller) on city trees in the right of ways adjacent to their property when they mow the grass.

This will provide a more manicured streetscape and enhance the beauty of Norfolk's neighborhoods year round. All pruning must be done from the ground with non-powered hand tools. Small sucker sprouts can easily be removed by rubbing them off while they are just emerging and supple. Remember, topping of trees is not an approved pruning practice and is never allowed. Please view these tree care tips before removing crape myrtle suckers.