Residents can call 859-292-3686 or email to contact the Newport Community Services Department with questions on any tree issue.

About Public Street & Park Trees in Newport. The City of Newport acknowledges how important trees and tree canopy is for a livable community. Trees and tree canopy is important to the City of Newport for a number of reasons, read the executive summary here.

We take seriously the stewardship of our trees and work to implement our community goal in place:

Tree Canopy Goal in Newport: The City of Newport recognizes the value of trees within the community. As such, Newport’s goal is to, at minimum, maintain the existing tree canopy cover (amount of city covered by trees when viewed from above) at the current 33%, while working to improve the quality and health of the current canopy as well as equalize the tree canopy cover between neighborhoods - all while maintaining public safety.

Efforts to Work Toward These Goals

The City has taken a number of steps to work toward the tree canopy goals described above:

How does the City manage its trees?  All efforts to manage public trees are based on working toward the goal above. There are two structures in place that guide our daily management of city trees in Newport:

*These two pieces together build our management program.  

Frequently Asked Questions

Below is a list of the most commonly asked questions about tree management in Newport. If, after reading through this list, you still have questions, residents can call 859-292-3686 to contact the Newport Community Services Department or via email CityofNewport@Newportky.govregarding any tree issue or question.

  1. What constitutes a public tree? 

  2. Who owns and cares for our public trees? 

  3. My street tree needs to be pruned. What do I do?

  4. I want a street tree.  How do I get one?  

  5. Is my tree OK / healthy?  

  6. Can I plant other things in a tree lawn/well?  

  7. My sidewalk is buckling because of tree roots. What are the options?

  8. Duke tops my trees every few years. It looks awful, what can be done?  

  9. I don’t like my tree / My tree is causing problems. What can I do?

  10. I have a tree on my own private property. Do I need permission to remove it?  


1 What constitutes a public tree?

A public tree is any tree located in the right-of-way (street trees) or on other public lands (city buildings, parks, etc.).  These trees are managed by the City of Newport.  Most street trees are located in the area between the sidewalk and the street, called a “tree lawn” or “tree well” as shown in the images below. 


2. Who owns and cares for public trees in Newport?  

All street trees and trees in parks are controlled and managed by the City of Newport, specifically through the Community Services Division of the city. For this reason, no cutting, removal, or other alterations or damage to a public tree or its roots is allowed without prior permission from the city. Failure to obtain permission carries fines, as defined in the City tree ordinanceChapter 94 Trees

Fines include both a 1) fine for failure to obtain prior permission ($200 per instance), and 2) compensation for the loss of that city tree/asset (assessed at $250 per inch of trunk diameter). This can add up to substantial fines for illegal damage or removal of a public tree because they are so important to the health and vibrancy of our city, and once replaced, regrowth can take decades.   

Example: A 10” DBH (trunk diameter at breast height) tree removed illegally (without prior permission) would incur a $200 fine plus a compensation payment for the loss of a city asset in the amount of $2,700 ($250 x 10” diameter).  

3 My street tree needs to be pruned. What do I do?

Occasionally, street trees require pruning to remove dead limbs, alleviate clearance issues for people or cars, and to keep branches from reaching nearby buildings. If you think your street tree needs to be pruned, you can contact the City to have the tree looked at by our contract arborist. Once the City’s contract arborist assesses the tree, a determination can be made on the hazard and safety situation.  

Option 1: Wait for the city’s zone management schedule (see below) to have City staff take care of the pruning.

Option 2: If the City is not working in that zone within the next year or two, and the adjacent property owner does not want to wait for the work to be done, they can obtain a City permit to hire a private contractor at their own expense. Two important things to note on this option:

Management Schedule - a quick primer on how we care for our trees: City tree pruning is implemented based on 1) a proactive cyclical care system recommended in national best management practices in urban forestry and 2) best and most efficient use of available funding. Here’s how it works:

4. I would like a street tree. What are the options?

The City of Newport is currently using its available funds for management and proactive care of our existing trees. For this reason, there is not a public tree planting program run by the City. However, there are a couple options for those interested in having a street tree in front of their property:

Option 1: Obtain City Permission and Plant One Yourself.  Adjacent property owners can plant a street tree themselves, but only with prior permission from the City Arborist. This ensures the right trees are planted in the right places, ensuring longer lived trees that aren’t severely pruned by utility companies. Any tree planted without prior permission of the City is subject to removal and fines. 

Option 2: Community Plantings. Additionally, the City often works with community groups that run tree planting programs. Approach your neighborhood association to see if plantings are scheduled in your area.

No matter which option, there are some parameters to ensure the right tree gets planted in the right space.  

  1. Is there enough space? To plant a street tree, there needs to be a minimum of 3-4’ of tree lawn (distance from street curb to sidewalk edge) to plant a tree.  Aim to stay 5' away from water/electric lines which are marked on the curbs. Note that ADA requirements (American Disabilities Act) state that the sidewalk must be 4’ in width. The City Arborist can help determine if you have enough space for a street tree. 

  2. Which tree species to choose? There are many options that will work as street trees, and many more cultivars (variations of existing trees) that come on the market every year.  

    1. Are overhead utilities present? If there are no power lines overhead (communication lines are OK) all trees planted should be medium-large size (at maturity) trees to aid the community in growing our tree canopy to improve air and water quality and improve quality of life in Newport.

      1. No Power Lines. If there are no power lines present, there are many many native and non-native choices of trees to plant, including (but not limited to) lindens, maples, tulip poplars, oaks, ginkgos, elms, zelkova, and more.

      2. Under Power Lines. A tree that has a mature height of 25 feet or under, like a redbud, dogwood, Japanese tree lilac, single stem serviceberry, amur maple, etc. Any nursery can help you choose one if you tell them you are planting under utility lines.

    2. Tree Species Prohibited: 

      1. Ash (Fraxinus species): All ash trees are currently dying off thanks to the Emerald ash borer pest.

      2. Callery pear (Pyrus calleryana): Flowering pears have been identified now as an invasive species. 

      3. Crabapples (Malus species) and mulberries (Morus species): Fruit debris can be a nuisance on sidewalks depending on the variety.

      4. Evergreens like pines, spruce, arborvitae, etc. are not ideal because of car and pedestrian clearance issues that are created.

    3. Questions?  Any nursery can help you choose one if you tell them whether you have overhead utility lines. Explore your options with tree nursery staff and present your choice to the City Arborist when you apply for permission to plant your tree. The City Arborist will help adjust the selection if it is deemed inappropriate for the location.  

5. How to care for a new street tree?

If you just got a new street tree, there are a few things you can do to give it its best chance to thrive and grow into an asset for your property and the neighborhood.

Learn more about new tree care here: 

6.  I’m worried my tree is unhealthy.  What do I do?

If you are concerned that there is something wrong with your street tree, contact Our City Arborist will check your tree and determine if any steps can be taken to address any problems.   

7. My sidewalk is buckling because of tree roots.

In the City of Newport, sidewalk management and repair is the responsibility of the adjacent homeowner. The City also recognizes that there are some residents who lament the presence of urban trees, due to the potential for sidewalk damage. However, trees have been proven to be critical to our vibrant community because of the benefits in air quality, public health, and property value boost they provide. For these reasons, the City of Newport works diligently to balance the needs of the community across all these topics.

If you have a buckling sidewalk from tree roots, please note that cutting large roots to allow for sidewalk is NOT permitted, as it can reduce the stability (and thus safety) of a tree. 

Consider replacing the sidewalk with a curved edge to make more room for the tree and all the benefits it provides. 

If large roots are in place, the city arborist can work with your sidewalk contractor to ensure any construction will not cause the tree to become unstable (root cutting), while ensuring the sidewalk is replaced properly.   

BELOW: Curved alternatives to help address sidewalk/tree conflicts.

BELOW: Example of root cuts in a sidewalk repair. This is NOT PERMITTED. This tree would be considered structurally unstable and unsafe.  


8. Can I plant other things in a tree lawn/well?  

Maintenance of space in the tree lawns or tree wells (space between the sidewalk and the street) beyond the tree itself is the responsibility of the adjacent property owner. Per the ordinance, plantings are allowed in this area as long as they are below 12” in height (grass, groundcover, mulch, etc.).  Any plantings beyond trees in this space that is above 12” in height or that will cause trip hazards. (ie. boulders, signs) is prohibited per the ordinance. The main reason for this restriction is to ensure easy access to and from parked cars as well as ensure safety for the public.

9. Duke tops my trees every few years.  It looks awful, what can be done?  

The short answer is that tree pruning is a necessary maintenance task Duke performs to keep lines safe and power outages to our homes and businesses to a minimum. If a large tree is planted under a utility line, it must be pruned to protect the utilities and prevent local outages. This is why it is so important to plant the right tree in the right place (as described in #4). Read more about this here: 

10. I don’t like my tree / My tree is causing problems.   

As already stated above, street trees are owned by the City and cannot be removed without a permit. The City’s overarching policy regarding tree removal is that no healthy tree is to be removed in effort to reach our goals described above. This is one of the reasons we have such heavily tree lined streets in some of our neighborhoods currently. For this reason, in most cases, permission will not be  granted to remove a healthy tree as we work toward our goals stated above. We ask that you consider your request carefully and weigh the cost of removal and replacement, the time it will take to regrow (decades) and the loss of services that tree provides to the community (clean air, temperature reduction in the summer, better public health, interception of stormwater that reduces instances of flooding and water pollution and more.  

That being said, the City receives requests for removal and or replacement for multiple reasons. Examples of these reasons, and the City’s policy in each case are as follows:

11. I have a tree on my own private property.  Do I need permission to remove it?  

No. Trees on your private property are yours to maintain as you choose. If you have questions about any trees on your private property, please contact a local Certified Arborist for a consultation.

Tree Pruning by Duke Energy

Duke Energy is scheduled to prune tree branches away from overhead power lines in the East Row neighborhood starting in February and continuing through the spring of 2020. Learn more here

Tree Ordinance Summary/Highlights

Residents are invited to review this Summary and Highlights of the Tree Ordinance.

Tree Lined Street in Newport in Winter

The Importance of

Trees in Cities.

What do we get from trees?

In cities across the country, there are many residents who lament the presence of urban trees, citing a number of problems. The most common of which are that they are messy, damage sidewalks and are sources of potential property damage from falling limbs or total tree failure. However, thanks to new technology and modeling tools, trees have now been proven as valuable city infrastructure and critical to vibrant communities because of the benefits they provide, with benefits shown to outweigh the maintenance related work associated with trees.

1. Trees provide effective and low-cost solutions to a myriad of urban challenges.

Urban trees have proven to be an effective tool across multiple city management areas, including planning, economic development, public health, and sanitation. They have been proven to alleviate water and air pollution, improve public health, increase property value, and enhance the success of business districts.

2. Trees are a smart investment.

On an annual basis, cities often see a strong return on investment related to tree costs and benefits. A recent five-city study found that cities accrued benefits ranging from $1.50–$3.00 for every dollar invested in trees (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 2015).

3. Trees increase in value over time.

Unlike man-made systems, trees are the only urban infrastructure that actually increase services and value over time. As trees mature, benefits increase exponentially, unlike more traditional city infrastructure such as roads and bridges that deteriorate with age.

More on EAB.

The emerald ash borer (EAB) is a pest from Asia that has been killing ash trees in the US since it was found in 2002 near Detroit, MI.  By 2009 it had migrated to our area (largely through sale of infested firewood).   See the Figure 6 for the latest infestation map.  Once infected, an ash tree can die within just 4-5 years, and often become extremely brittle and lose limbs well before death. Though treatment options do exist, they are expensive and must be reapplied regularly. To learn more about the emerald ash borer, visit: UK College of Agriculture

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