The same towering, moss-laden live oaks and magnolia trees that line Cholokka Boulevard through downtown Micanopy are the roots of concern for residents and electrical companies alike.
While the trees are a defining characteristic of “the town that time forgot,” their unruly growth has left the behemoth trees to wreak havoc on power lines, too frequently leaving many Micanopy residents without power. Duke Energy, the utility company that provides the majority of power to Micanopy, preemptively trims the trees to prevent overgrowth and as needed following power outages.
“Our power flicks on and off numerous times a week,” said Tricia Blair, who has lived in Micanopy for seven years. “Our power goes out with just the slightest of wind and rain and stays off for at least four to five hours each time.”
Mitchell Odham, 68, has lived in the Micanopy area for over 40 years.
“The trimming, I believe, is a problem and a little overdone,” Odham said. “I live a little north of Micanopy, across from lake Wauburg and do not experience the outages nearly the amount I hear people complaining about. We do not have trimming up here because we understand full trees actually protect the area. I am surrounded by massive oak trees and when the hurricanes came, the wind was absorbed into the branches and we didn’t get hit hard at all.”
Kim Knight, who has lived in Micanopy for 19 years, disagreed.
“The subcontractors do a good cut and trim job, but it is annoying that it takes at least two calls or emails to get the branches picked up,” she said.
Town Commissioner Mike Roberts said the town has a tree ordinance that Duke Energy must adhere to when performing pruning to protect the iconic trees.
“I think Duke is doing the best that they can do with what they have,” Roberts said. “We place a lot of restrictions on them.”
In February, the town of Micanopy approved a Vegetation Management Plan in conjunction with Duke Energy to outline which trees can be trimmed and how. The eight-page document dictates when specific species can be trimmed, which trees are the responsibility of residents and defines “specimen trees,” or those of “unique and intrinsic value” to the town. Most importantly, the ordinance requires a certified arborist to supervise tree-trimming crews.
“Trees are part of the natural beauty of Florida and in particular, Micanopy. Trees and other vegetation are also one of the leading causes of outages for utilities, especially during storms. Duke Energy worked closely with town officials on a vegetation management plan to balance aesthetics with the goal to provide safe, reliable power,” said Janine Saunders, spokesperson for Duke Energy, in an email.
Roberts said keeping the trees maintained is necessary to keep Micanopy residents safe, particularly those with health issues.
“The majority of Micanopy is covered by Duke Energy. If a tree goes out on main lines here, half the town goes out,” Roberts said. Residents with medical conditions who need electricity, such as those with oxygen machines, are a major concern. “As much as I like trees, a person comes before a tree.”
Saunders said extensive tree work was completed in Micanopy in early July and that customers should see fewer power outages going forward.