Trees, Please!

Many Washougalites have questions and concerns regarding tree removal and the preservation of existing trees within our beautiful, ever growing City. The answers to these questions can vary widely depending upon the size and health of the tree, the location of the tree, and ownership of the land upon which the tree has grown.

Protected Areas

Currently, Washougal has regulations in place protecting trees located on publicly owned land like city parks. Trees located on private property are protected by law from removal by anyone other than the rightful owner or their representative. Development agreements for newer subdivisions typically include a prohibition on ground disturbing activities or vegetation removal within critical areas such as steep slopes, conservation areas, wetlands, and buffers.

Tree removal from any protected area with such a prohibition is not allowed, however, there are a few exceptions. In addition, developers are encouraged to maintain existing trees whenever possible. Humans, homes, streets and sidewalks are protected from trees meeting the definition of a hazard tree; specifically, a tree that is dead, diseased, infested, or dying.

Why Trees May Be Removed

Few would argue that trees are beneficial, but there are several valid reasons why a tree may need to be removed. It may have been planted in a location inappropriate for its species, have too little space to thrive, or be in conflict with buildings, sidewalks, driveways or city infrastructure. It may also be a potential hazard to life and safety. Like us, even the hardiest of trees has a finite lifespan.

You may be considering whether or not to remove a tree on your property or have questions about a tree on the property of another, if so, contact Code Enforcement. We can determine ownership of the tree and work with you or the tree owner to resolve the problem.

We can offer advice on proper pruning techniques and how to deal with an improperly pruned tree. If you're interested in planting a tree we can help you choose one that is appropriate for the location in which you wish to plant. We encourage you to contact us with any tree related questions or concerns, no matter how small, prior to taking action yourself or hiring a tree care company.

Benefits of Trees

American Forests, formerly The American Forestry Association, a nonprofit organization in operation since 1875, recommends a 40% tree canopy in our area for optimal benefit. No statistics yet exist for the whole of Clark County or the City of Washougal itself, but the current average tree canopy in the City of Vancouver is just under 20%, which is less than half of what is recommended for the Pacific Northwest.

A city with a healthy tree canopy positively impacts the quality of life of its citizens in many ways including improved air and water quality, increased property values, energy savings, decreased stormwater runoff and greater recreational opportunities.

Let's begin working together now to preserve our existing canopy for the health of our city and for future generations. For more information on tree preservation, removal, pruning, or planting, please contact Sherry Montgomery, Code Enforcement Officer.

Homeowners, contractors, engineers, and developers are encouraged to refer to our newly updated Street Tree Planting List for recommended species suitable to your site or project. 

Before You Prune

  • Get the big picture.
  • Take a few steps back and get a good, long look at the whole of your tree and the surrounding area.
  • Define your objective.
  • Do you have dead branches, branches putting pressure on your roof or gutters or other potentially problematic conditions?
  • Consult with city staff or a tree professional.
  • Devise a plan that is acceptable to you and requires as little pruning as possible to meet your goals.
  • Gather the appropriate tools and make sure they are all in good working order.
  • Keep your personal safety and that of your loved ones in mind. Be sure to remove any potentially hazardous conditions prior to beginning your project.

A Word on Tree Topping

Tree topping is the process of removing large branches from the canopy of a tree. This is frequently done in an effort to make the tree smaller, safer, and more manageable. The opposite is often true, however, and tree topping is not an accepted pruning practice.

Topping is detrimental to the health of the tree. It drastically reduces or removes the tree's ability to feed itself through the process of photosynthesis due to the lack of or reduction of its leaves. The large wounds left on a tree after topping are more susceptible to disease, decay and eventual failure. A topped tree will put all of its energy into regaining its height by sending out numerous small and bushy branches that are weakly attached at the removal site. Topping may then need to be repeated regularly, costing the homeowner more money in the long run.