Do I have to pay for the damages to sidewalks caused by trees? Are there guidelines?

Dear Eco Ed:

Village employees are telling me that the sidewalks on my street need to be repaired, at my expense, because the tree roots have shifted them over the years. I love the trees on our block, but why do I have to pay for it? Also, won’t this kill the roots, or make the trees more susceptible to falling in future storms? Does the Village have anyone who sets guidelines or provides information on trees in our neighborhoods?

– Love My Trees in Ridgewood

Photo by Jennifer Jameson

Photo by Jennifer Jameson

Dear Love My Trees:

Hundreds of questions and concerns have arisen, most of them as a result of severe storms in recent years.

Include Trees in Maintenance Costs

An interesting note is that people will spend money consistently on maintaining a lawn: watering, mowing, fertilizing, weed prevention, etc.  This adds up to hundreds or even thousands of dollars per year.  Trees also have costs for planting, pruning, cleaning up branches and leaves, and sometimes removing.  These costs are less consistent and much less frequent.

Long term they are much less expensive, but since they are not budgeted for, people tend to get upset about having to spend a few hundred dollars when maintenance needs do arise.

Cutting out of fear

It is easy for tree-cutting companies to convince people how dangerous trees are after these storms, and they make a lot of money by cutting them down.  What we need to keep a focus on is the overall value of trees.

The Economic Value of Trees

Aside from the beauty, there is the economic value of a tree canopy in our neighborhoods.  This is reflected in the increased value of homes in neighborhoods that have a mature canopy.  Trees are also important for flood prevention, sediment and erosion control, cooling homes in summer, protecting homes from wind, along with providing homes for birds, animals and beneficial insects.

Thinking Long-Term for Towns

The newly-formed Shade Tree Commission for Ridgewood, NJ will help the Mayor, Council and Village Residents by providing information on tree care for existing plantings.

  1. They will also provide guidelines for future plantings, such as moving trees out of the right-of-ways (that strip of grass between the curb and the street), a few feet back on to our yards, so that the curbs will not be impacted in the future.
  2. Guidance on planting the right trees in the right place will also be provided, so that people can choose the proper trees near utility lines or our homes.  We need to have our trees live in harmony with our power lines, and not destroy them in severe storms.
  3. Land and neighborhoods will be afforded with a level of protection against developers and others seeking to clear cut properties, which impacts surrounding properties.

In the near term, the Shade Tree Commission will work closely with the Parks and Recreation Department and other Village officials to best manage our existing old-growth trees to balance the complex issues between safety, appearance, economic value, cost to maintain, planning for the future and many other factors.

In the meantime, enjoy the trees in your yard and neighborhood, have patience with the Village as they help all of the residents address issues relating to existing trees, and keep an eye out on the Village web site in upcoming months.  They will be providing valuable information and tips for planting, maintaining, and getting the most enjoyment out of the trees in your yard/neighborhood!

Photo by delcond

Photo by delcond



  1. mattress says:


    Do I have to pay for the damages to sidewalks caused by trees? Are there guidelines?

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