Is It Okay to Cover Tree Roots?

We have large oak trees on our property with gigantic roots above the ground. I have covered the roots with soil for easier walking etc. People have told me that if I keep the roots covered the trees will die. Is there any truth in this? Thank you, John Callahan, Florida (zone 8b)

Yes, there is truth to that statement. Raising the soil level around trees will result in a decreased oxygen supply to the roots. This is especially true if the soil gets compacted from foot traffic. Lack of oxygen slows down root growth, reducing the amount of water and nutrients supplied to the tree. Eventually the tree will become weak and possibly die. My advice would be to remove the additional fill and create a path that goes around the roots. It may take a little longer to get to your destination, but where’s the harm in that?