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Spring is in the air, and so is SDOT Urban Forestry

SDOT Urban Forestry arborists are working this month in the air above Fifth Avenue along the monorail in downtown Seattle. Look up—you will likely see them perched in the cab of a lift truck, or suspended by ropes, carefully pruning trees up to 80 feet tall.

arborist in cab of lift truck

Up in the air, out on a limb, on Fifth Avenue.


Darren Morgan of Urban Forestry explained that many of these London Plane trees date from the World’s Fair and require more frequent pruning than most—every four to five years—to provide the required clearance for the train.



The London Plane trees are being pruned to provide clearance for the monorail.


These trees can live for hundreds of years in some cases. The arborists are pruning them to promote continued growth around and over the train which will provide a leafy tunnel for the pleasure of the monorail passengers.


Vintage photo of Fifth Avenue trees when they were much younger.

Vintage photo of the Fifth Avenue trees in the 70’s


The arborists are not only pruning along the monorail, but they will continue down Fifth, pruning the Cleveland Norway Maple trees that line the avenue to Seneca Street, providing clearance from buildings, marquees, and other things along the street. 


Fifth Avenue trees

The arborists are pruning trees on Fifth Avenue from Denny Way to Seneca Street.


Working on a large group of trees like this is more cost and time efficient than working on single trees in multiple locations or smaller groups of trees. This project started at the beginning of April and will take an estimated four weeks of aerial work.

Besides working at heights, another challenge of working in this corridor includes the heavy vehicular,  pedestrian and bicycle traffic, requiring carefully planned traffic control.  A uniformed police officer is on site throughout the project to lend additional safety to the project and the public.

Darren Morgan shared insight into the work of the arborists: “Working high in the canopy of downtown city trees, an arborist often goes unnoticed by the majority of the passing public.  If the work is done well, most people will never notice the pruning that has taken place.  I think that this indicates how much of the ‘work’ that trees do in our cities can be taken for granted.  The street may be cool and comfortable on a hot, sunny summer afternoon, making the business district a pleasant place be,  but people don’t usually realize how much trees contribute to that reality.”


“Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.”

Warren Buffett