Wilkinsburg Is Looking Ahead – And The Future Looks Green

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The Borough of Wilkinsburg recognizes the importance of having trees in the community, and the benefit of maintaining its “urban forest.” The trees in the parks, yards, public spaces and streetscapes play a vital role in the health and economic vitality of the community. Trees reduce runoff from storms and prevent erosion; they improve the quality of our air and water, minimize the cost of heating and cooling of our homes and businesses, increase property values, and ultimately, enhance the desirability of our neighborhoods and commercial districts.

 

The Borough of Wilkinsburg also recognizes that in order to maintain its valuable urban forest, it is vital to continually replant trees. In the 1930s and 40s, after the Great Depression, and again after World War II, major tree planting efforts occurred with expansion into urban residential areas. It was during this time that the majority of trees were planted in cities and towns. Generally speaking, large tree planting initiatives have not occurred since then, either in Wilkinsburg or in other cities and towns. This has resulted in an imbalance in the age distribution in the tree populations. That means that most trees in urban forests are around the same age and will likely decline and die around the same time.

 

In response to this issue, the Borough of Wilkinsburg Citizens Advisory Committee on Shade Trees has partnered with Pennsylvania Community Forests and Duquesne Light Company to receive a Municipal Tree Restoration Program (MTRP) grant in the amount of $3,500. The grant will be used to re-plant trees on the south side of Penn Avenue from the intersection of Superior Street down to the statue of Abraham Lincoln.

 

MTRP grants are funded by local utility companies and administered through Pennsylvania Community Forests, a nonprofit organization that guides a statewide program to provide technical and financial assistance for communities and volunteer groups. The main objectives of the MTRP grant are to encourage communities to choose appropriate trees for planting under utility wires, and to encourage the improvement of municipality-based tree programs. Since the MTRP grant is a matching grant, the Borough will match the $3,500 either in cash or with an in-kind match such as the labor contributed by the volunteers to plant the trees. The MTRP grant will allow Wilkinsburg to replace poor quality trees too large to grow under utility lines with smaller-maturing, more appropriate species.

 

The tree replacement effort will include the removal of 13 trees and the planting of 36 new trees. The trees to be removed have been identified by the borough and by Duquesne Light and are located on the south side of the 1300 and 1400 blocks of Penn Avenue, and are within the borough’s right of way. These trees are either mature and in poor condition, or are expected to grow too large to safely remain beneath the overhead electrical lines. The work will be done at no cost to the adjacent property owners or to the Borough of Wilkinsburg and will be done in cooperation with Duquesne Light Company. The Citizens Advisory Committee on Shade Trees, Nine Mile Run Watershed Association, and Friends of Pittsburgh’s Urban Forest will plant 36 healthy, utility-compatible trees in the spring of 2010. The plan includes the planting of 29 trees at the Penn Avenue location, with an additional four trees in the 500 and 600 blocks of Mifflin Avenue, and three in the 700 block of Savannah Avenue.

 

The transformation along Penn Avenue will result in very noticeable changes, with a significant improvement expected over the long term. The new trees will be chosen based on their mature size so that they can safely reach a maximum height below utility wires, providing a long-lasting urban forest. By choosing the “right plant for the right place,” the Wilkinsburg urban forest will continue to thrive and give back to its community. It is our intention that these efforts will play a role in the preservation of our urban forest for future generations to enjoy, just as we have appreciated the efforts of our tree-minded community members who have gone before us.

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