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Myths & Facts

Myth: Large trees and their roots are a primary cause of foundation damage.

Fact: Although tree roots can contribute to subsiding foundations, the most common cause is unusual soil drying from severe drought. We are fortunate to live near the ocean, where rainfall is more prevalent and our soil holds more water. Full basements are even less likely to be affected in drought conditions due to the depth of the soil and to the fact that roots normally grow horizontally and not far beneath the soil surface. Choosing certain species such as oaks and sugar maples can further reduce risk and should problems arise, an offending root can be cut, preserving both the tree and the foundation. (The Morton Arboretum)

Myth: Trees cause costly damage by seeking out water with their roots and breaking into underground pipes.

Fact: Contrary to popular belief, tree roots do not go in search of water and rarely break into pipes. In almost all circumstances roots enter pipes through failing pipes or joints. Intrusion of tree roots into pipes reminds us that maintenance is overdue. Pipes have a finite life expectancy and require maintenance just as most visible aspects of our property improvements do. Older pipes tend to be made of terra cotta which typically last 30 to 40 years. If relined or replaced pipes can have 60 to 100 years of use.(The Arborist Network, Mark Hartley, Sr., Consulting Arborist)

Myth: Trees have no real or measurable economic benefits for homeowners, businesses or city governments

Fact: Trees have economic returns for individuals in reduced health care costs through reduction of stress, promotion of outdoor activity and improved air quality. Trees can lower summer cooling bills by up to 50%. Realtors state that homes with trees can sell at prices up to 10% higher than those without them. Studies have shown that people who shop on tree lined streets have more trust in business owners. Cities with tree lined streets resurface roads less often, have lower incidences of crime, and more efficient management of storm water runoff. In Rehoboth, runoff goes directly into the ocean and lakes with any accompanying pollutants or sediment. Without safe bathing and fishing waters, we have little basis for our resort economy.(USDA, Jay Townsend, Phd, U. of DE, International Society of Arboriculture, Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture)

Myth : Large trees are too expensive to maintain.

Fact: On average communities can care for their largest trees for as little as $13 per year. Each large tree returns an average of $65 per year in energy savings, cleaner air, better managed storm water, extended life of streets and higher property values. By comparison, medium sized trees and small trees, even at maturity, provide less than a third and less than a half of the benefits of large trees, respectively. (Center for Urban Forest Research, Pacific Southwest Research Station, USDA Forest Service)

Myth: There is not enough room on a 50 x 100 foot lot to support one or more tall canopy trees.

Fact: 50 by 100 foot lots in Rehoboth Beach, with varying sizes of homes, currently have multiple tall canopy trees on them. Additionally, a number of tall canopy trees are accommodated well in narrow grass strips between sidewalks and streets throughout the town. Current building ordinances mandate 50% of 50 by 100 foot lots or 2,500 square feet of natural area. This can be configured in various ways with changing setbacks depending on the placement of driveways, walkways, patios, pools and porches. To grow a tall healthy tree requires on average 330 square feet of natural area to a depth of 3 feet (approximately 1000 cubic feet of soil). Side yard, backyard and front yard natural areas can provide sufficient natural area and tall trees, if valued, can be given additional space toward optimal growth with wise site planning. ( 

Myth: It is unusual that we are trying to regulate tree practices through a tree ordinance as towns as small as Rehoboth Beach typically do not have them.

Fact: At least thirteen towns with populations lower than 10,000 in Delaware have tree ordinances. Four of these have populations lower than Rehoboth Beach. In the surrounding states of Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, 151 towns below 10,000 in population have tree ordinances. (Tree City U.S.A.)