Trees Risk Assessment in Campgrounds and Recreational Parks

Toso Bozic

Toso Bozic

Tree/Forestry Expert

Canadians love our outdoor activities – camping, hiking or enjoying nature’s beauty in our beautiful parks. Forests are the main fabric of our natural world and greatly contribute to environmental, social, and economic values to all of us.  People love and enjoy being around trees and nature. Trees truly enhance the beauty and enjoyment of our campgrounds and natural parks. Trees are living things which are susceptible to many natural elements such as insects, diseases, and weather or man-made damages like construction, compaction, and equipment.

Although trees have many benefits, tree can also be a liability to our campgrounds and recreational parks. When tree or part of trees fall, they can possibly injure people, damage property, or disrupt our infrastructure, (roads, and powerlines). There is no such thing as a “safe tree”, only a very small number of trees cause damage. Property owners must understand and address potential tree risk and failure. Under the Alberta Occupiers’ Liability Act that you as the owner is responsible under the “duty of care of visitors” to provide the safety to visitors.    The common duty of care applies in relation to: “ (a)   the condition of the premises, (b)   activities on the premises, and (c)   the conduct of third parties on the premises”

Why inspect tree for risks in parks and campgrounds?

The main reason for tree risk assessment  is the safety of your tenants, the public and your employees. Ultimately it is the responsibility of the property owner under the ”duty of care of visitors”  regulations to ensure the safety of public and your employees.

Tree Risk vs Tree Hazards

There is a significant and important distinction  between “tree risk” and “tree hazards”. Under the International Society of Arborist (ISA) – Tree Risk Assessment Manual defines them as follows:

Risk is the combination of the likelihood of an event and severity of the potential consequences. In the context of trees, tree risk is the likelihood of a conflict or tree failure occurring and affecting a target, and the severity of the associated consequences—personal injury, property damage, or disruption of activities.

A hazard is a likely source of harm. In relation to trees, a tree hazard is the tree part or parts identified as a likely source of harm.

What to look for – Tree Risk Checklist

Most campgrounds and recreational parks are surrounded by a large number of trees, either naturally occurring or planted. Tree risks are not just around where people usually are – RVs, campfire, tents, parking lots and facilities but also along the busy trails. How to recognize potential tree risks in your campground or park:

  • Dead, broken or uprooted trees
  • Large broken branches hanging on the trees
  • Trees leaning against other trees
  • Trees with mushrooms at their base or along the main stem
  • Hanging or detached branches
  • Forked trunks, co-dominant with equally size branches  and stems
  • Freshly disturbed soil around the base of leaning tree  
  • Trees with a large portion of their root system exposed or damaged
  • Any soil related construction that can involve root removal or other damages. Any pavement upheavals by roots.
  • Any large open cracks or wounds with exposed decay in roots, trunk or branches
  • Trees that have been heavily and improperly pruned
  • Trees heavily infested with a variety of wood boring insects and noticeable woodpecker activities.  
  • Trees exposed to wind after adjacent trees have been removed.
  • Any trees with thorns or poisonous fruits.

What can you do to reduce the tree risks?

Prior to opening of the season campgrounds or parks should be inspected and surveyed for trees with defects that could cause property damage or injury. Trees should be inspected after major weather activities such as windstorms, hail, heavy snow or tornado damages.

Hire a professional, independent, and certified ISA Tree Risk Assessment Qualified (TRAQ) assessor to inspect and survey your campground or parks. Ensure that a written report is compiled after the assessment. Based on the tree risk assessment report, carry out suggestions and recommendations. Monitor your trees during the season and moreover after strong winds, rain or snow. To avoid a possible conflict of interest, hire an independent TRAQ assessor who does not represent a tree removal company.

How can we help?

Yard Whispers professional and experienced Tree Expert and ISA Certified TRAQ Arborist offer Limited Visual Assessment (Level 1)  and Basic Assessment(Level 2). We can help you manage the trees on your property and can provide treatments to reduce the risks associated with certain trees.

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