In the grand scheme of things this is not a big issue. That's why we haven't written about it before. But maybe addressing it now will prevent it from getting worse.
The issue is tree trimming, especially in the south part of Sharp County. The problem is not that the trees are trimmed -- that's a good thing. It's how they're trimmed.
The trees aren't pruned, they're topped.
Every time we see freshly topped trees along Highway 167 from Evening Shade through Cave City to the Batesville city limits, we wonder who has bewitched these people. It's as if some tree-topping bandit sneaks in at night and cuts off healthy tree limbs.
But the reality is worse; homeowners actually make conscious decisions to destroy their trees and even pay tree cutters to do it.
Otherwise beautifully landscaped yards are marred by hideous trees with their branches cut off, leaving nothing more than elevated stumps. The trees look just as bad when the new branches sprout from the edges of the stump in spring, growing so thick they choke each other out; in place of one strong, healthy limb dozens of weak branches grow so close together that none can get adequate nutrition.
Topping a tree not only creates a monstrous eyesore, it is unhealthy for the tree. Topping increases the risk of disease and insect infestations. Clumps of branches that sprout from a stump are more prone to breaking off and splitting the stump.
In some case topping kills trees -- as is apparently the case with some of the trees in this area.
Don't take our word for it. Ask the National Arbor Day Foundation or the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service or the Arkansas Forestry Commission, all of which provide guidelines for pruning trees for maximum health and beauty.
Earlier this year a tree cutting crew topped six mature trees on the lawn of the Pulaski County Courthouse in Little Rock. All six trees were damaged beyond recovery and had to be removed.
Forester Pete Rausch, after seeing the trees, called it "the worst thing you can do to a tree."
The practice of topping trees was, briefly, common in this country a generation ago, but it has long since been discredited. Obviously the memo never reached north Arkansas.
Homeowners, please, before you let anyone with a saw near your trees, make sure he has the knowledge to prune them correctly.
If you do it yourself, contact the Sharp County Extension Office or Arkansas Forestry Commission office in Sharp County. Or go online to the Arbor Day Foundation Web site.