RV Park Mastery: Episode 32

Trees 101

There’s a new movement to embrace trees from a green environment perspective. But RV park owners have treasured trees long before ecology became a hot topic. In this episode of the RV Park Mastery podcast we’re going to talk all about trees and how to manage them correctly. As you’ll see, smart RV park owners are part botanist, part risk analyst, and part Hollywood set designer.

Episode 32: Trees 101 Transcript

Johnny Appleseed was big on trees and I am too. This is Frank Rolfe for the RV Park Mastery Podcast Series. We're going to be talking about trees, the good, the bad, how to mitigate the risk, how to work around trees. Let's start off with the good things about trees in RV parks. Number one, to me the biggest single item in favor of trees is that trees are good looking. They bring a certain aesthetic to all RV parks. Look at landscape paintings at big expensive art galleries. And what do you see typically featured more than any other item in those landscapes? It's trees. People like trees, they like to look at them, and they're part of nature. They're big, they're green, they're friendly. RV parks are very much about giving that feeling of nature. And one of the big parts of that for most RV parks is the existence of trees. So trees are positive for no other reason than the fact they bring a certain aesthetic sensibility to any RV park, and they enhance the whole nature experience.

Another big item with RV parks is that trees create shade. We all know how hot it can be in the summer and when you're in the sun. But did you notice it's not that unpleasant when you're under a tree cover? So if you can provide an RV park experience, where right in the blazing sun in the middle of the day when it's 100 degrees out, you give your customers shade. So underneath all of that, they're there in a fairly respectable lower temperature, then that's definitely a great thing to do. So to me, the good things about trees are beauty and shade.

But then you also have some bad things. Most of the bad things all relate to cost. First way trees cost you money is you're constantly pruning dead limbs and dead trees so they don't fall in hurt anyone because a tree, a dead tree, can be a very dangerous weapon. I'm sure we've all seen in our lifetimes a giant tree limb that's fallen off and hit a car. I've seen where they've actually crushed the car. Trees are very, very heavy. And as a result, when things fall off of the tree, you have a lot of weight from a lot of height and the end result can be catastrophic. And it costs a lot of money to remove trees and tree limbs over time. It also costs a lot of money and time to pick up their leaves. Because unless it's an evergreen, most species of trees drop their leaves annually, typically in fall, and you then have to spend a lot of time picking up all those leaves. And I'm sure we've all said, "Gosh, darn it, I hate picking up all these leaves." So again, it's a cost, both time and if you hire it out the money as well.

And then you have the fact that the trees can get into your utility lines. They can get into your above ground power lines. Those tree limbs can go in there and they can knock your lines down, knock your lines out, in the event of a big windstorm. That's a problem. And then in the ground, those tree roots can try and get into your sewer lines if they can, because they're always looking for water somewhere, anything they can find. So the problem with trees basically is just simply that they cost money.

So then how do you work with trees? How does the average RV park owner best work with the concept of embracing and keeping those trees going, but at the same time acknowledging and mitigating the risk and the cost? Well, the first thing you have to do if you have an RV park with trees, is you've got to at least on an annual basis, prune out all dead tree and dead tree limbs. Here's why. If you ever have an insurance claim, if one of those trees should ever blow over or a limb fall off and strike someone or their RV or their car, then if the tree limb or the tree has green leaves on it typically that's considered an act of God. There's no way that a human can figure out what is in the future for a living tree. We can't look underground with an X-ray beam to see how deep it goes in the ground. We can't go look at the tree trunk within X-ray beam to see if there's any holes or cavities in it. So we all have to assume that the tree is alive that it's healthy.

But we also know if there are no leaves on it and the tree is dead, that it wasn't healthy. And if one of those tree limbs or trees fall down that are obviously dead, then that's going to be considered negligence on the part of the RV park owner. And that claim is going to go against you and or your insurance company. So we have to always remain vigilant to remove dead trees and dead tree limbs. Now, obviously, that's very, very hard during the winter. So the time you'd want to prune it out is in the spring. You can clearly see those parts of the tree which have grown leaves as separated from those which have not. And again, that's only based on trees that are not evergreen. Your evergreen trees, you can see every day of the year, in the winter and the summer, what's alive in what's dead, and anything that's dead just has to go. Now, yes, I know it's expensive, but it's a whole lot more expensive to have that tree limb fall and injure someone or their property. So there's one thing you can't hold back on, and that's doing that annual pruning of your trees and tree limbs.

 Also, you have to remember that trees come in different varieties and different species. And some of those are better for RV parks than others. Oak trees, for example, can live to be 1,000 years old. However, a hackberry tree which is very fast growing and a very weak tree, those things have a life expectancy that's only a matter of decades. So when it comes to pruning your trees, you might want to go ahead and remove the trees that are not really the good quality ones. You can look online and you can find the average age for trees based on the type of tree right there online and you will be shocked at how different it can be. I didn't realize until I started studying trees that, for example, a blue spruce, which is a tree I like a whole lot they don't live that long. They typically only live to be about 100 years old, which I know you say "Well, that seems like a long time," but not if it was planted 80 years ago. However, things like Cypress and oak trees, those can live to be 1,000 years old. So clearly, in the battle of the trees, you want to go towards the trees that live long periods of time and that are also attractive.

There are other varieties of trees for examples like hackberries, which are not particularly attractive. In fact as trees come and go, they're more like weeds. And as a result, in those cases, if those things start dying and losing limbs or just not looking good, you may want to go ahead and remove them altogether. Also, remember that when that when you prune a tree, you can't put it back later. Be very, very careful allowing people to prune trees who don't know what they're doing. It's one thing to remove a dead tree limb. We all know how that works. You just find the limb that's dead and you cut it off, right? But sometimes RV park owners allow employees who are not in any way skilled with trees to work on their trees. It's a terrible shame. Some of those trees have been living in your RV park for 100 years, 200 years, and to have someone go up and butcher that tree with no knowledge of what they're doing is really a sin because you can't ever fix it. I witnessed with my own eyes cases with RV park owners who did not know what they were doing, had employees for example, with evergreen trees cut all the branches off that were say within eight to 10 feet of the ground, then only to find the tree wasn't pretty anymore, and they can't glue the branches back on.

I would not on a regular basis allow any employee to pretend to be a botanist. If you have a really beautiful important tree on your property, it would probably behoove you to use a regular licensed tree company on that simply because they have the knowledge. And most importantly, you need someone who knows how to remove dead tree limbs and dead trees without injuring people in the removal process. Trees are very heavy, they are very dangerous. You would never want to send an unskilled person on your payroll with a chainsaw up a ladder to work on a tree. More than likely if the tree doesn't fall and hit them or property, they'll harm them self with the chainsaw or they'll fall off the ladder. So when it comes to trees, be very serious about it and be very selective in who you allow. And you should never let anyone work on a tree who does not have valid insurance. There's simply too much at risk.

I would also not work on a tree if there were any RVs around the could be hit by it. I would try and have those either move or wait until those lots are free of any visitor before you do the work. I know way too many stories and have witnessed in our own properties cases where tree limbs hit property and it's never a happy ending. You have a very unhappy customer, you'll get a very bad social media post. Your insurance company will no way be pleased. So when it comes to you and working with trees only use professional, people who have insurance. And be proactive and be smart before you touch that tree. Because trees, as beautiful as they are, can also be a little risky.

When it comes to planting trees, remember that if you're going to plant a tree, make sure you only plant trees that are hardy native specimens. You don't want to go ahead and put in trees that do not do well in your weather, they will not succeed. And if they do live, they will never reach their full potential. You can find maps online of all regions of America and what kind of trees prosper there. Choose those varieties. Also, remember that all trees in the early stages do require some form of irrigation or watering. There are very few tree varieties you can buy that come in burlap ball, that are going to go ahead and succeed if you don't help them out. Remember when those trees first arrive, they have very small root systems, far too small for the tree. And you've got to help those roots out because they're not big enough yet to suck up enough water out of the ground. So you're going to have to constantly water them. If you can't get a hose over the tree, you can always go ahead and fill up some five gallon buckets with water and pour them slowly on the tree and that will pretty much do the job. But there's no point in planting trees if you're not going to maintain them or water them in the early stages because they simply will typically not live.

This is Frank Rolfe, the RV Park Mastery Podcast. We've been talking about trees, particularly this time of year when the sun is shining brightly and temperatures are rising, trees are a wonderful addition to any RV park. So up with trees. Let's keep those trees healthy and good. And let's all be smarter owners and make sure we take care of those trees properly.