Not many trees are taking root in Lawrenceville, but they soon will


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Lawrenceville has one of the city's sparsest tree canopies, diverse topography and land use, and the most active Tree Tenders group, making it the natural pilot for Tree Pittsburgh's neighborhood-level focus on planning and planting.

Tree Pittsburgh is an advocacy organization that is working in stages to appropriately plant new trees and coordinate tree care. It is joined by a partner organization, TreeVitalize, which is a public-private source for new trees.

Jen Kulgren, community forester for Tree Pittsburgh, said the process will move into other neighborhoods "depending on the success of this pilot. If we go to another neighborhood next year, it will be guided by those components" -- canopy, topography/land use and activism.

Tree canopy is defined by what can be seen in satellite photographs.

In 2012, Tree Pittsburgh completed a citywide master plan with participation from 12 entities, including the Allegheny County Sanitary Authority. The plan recommended neighborhood-level planning, Ms. Kulgren said.

Without counting Allegheny Cemetery, Central Lawrenceville has 12.3 percent tree canopy, less than Upper Lawrenceville, with 19 percent, and Lower Lawrenceville, with 15.3 percent.

"Lawrenceville is a heat island with lots of impermeable pavement," Mr. Kulgren said.

At a recent community meeting, staff of Tree Pittsburgh gathered feedback from residents on ideal sites for new trees. A recommendation session will be held from 7 to 8 p.m. June 25 at the Goodwill store, 125 51st St. A plan for Lawrenceville will be presented at a September session.

Molly Dimond-Stephany, chair of the Lawrenceville Tree Tenders, said her group holds monthly steering committee meetings, three tree care days and two planting days each year and monthly mulching and pruning parties.

"Lawrenceville has planted more than 900 trees in the last seven years," she said.

The neighborhood's goals will determine how many more trees it needs and how many can realistically be maintained, Ms. Kulgren said, adding that storm water capture is a crucial part of the plan. Based on 2005 tree inventory numbers, 1.25 million gallons are intercepted annually.

The trees in grassy areas of Allegheny Cemetery intercept 7.75 million gallons. More rain water is intercepted in natural areas.

Based on a canopy analysis from 2010, one-third of the city has space for new trees, including portions of impermeable surfaces such as parking lots, Ms. Kulgren said.

TreeVitalize was founded in 2004 by the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources with funding to plant trees. In 2008, Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, the DCNR and the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy joined forces to establish a TreeVitalize entity here, with the conservancy as its coordinator. TreeVitalize reached its goal of planting 20,000 trees in the city last fall, in Point State Park.

The city contracted the Davey Resource Group for an inventory in 2005 that produced surprising results. Instead of 60,000 trees that most foresters thought the city had, the inventory counted 31,524, most in fair condition at best. About 3,000 were hazardous, 11,000 diseased.

City forester Lisa Ceoffe said the city cut down the hazardous and diseased trees and is "systematically addressing" the maintenance needs of trees as the budget allows.


Diana Nelson Jones: djones@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1626. Read her blog City Walkabout at www.post-gazette.com/citywalk. For more information about the 201 planning process, visit www.treepittsburgh.org.

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