Walkabout: More interest buds in promoting trees in least green areas

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City neighborhoods with the least amount of tree canopy will be inventoried this winter and next spring as Tree Pittsburgh begins implementing recommendations in the urban forest master plan that was completed earlier this year.

One of the priorities in the plan is to reach out to neighborhoods that least benefit from the urban forest, and an inventory will start that process. Tree Pittsburgh is a private, nonprofit group dedicated to restoring and protecting the city's trees, using funds from sources such as the city's Shade Tree Commission.

The commission recently granted Tree Pittsburgh $10,000 to begin a multi-phase project starting with 2,000 trees in tree-poor neighborhoods. The inventory will take into account the condition and species of each tree.

"Part of the Shade Tree Commission's mandate is a tree inventory, so this is just progressing on work that was done with the street tree inventory" of 2005, said Matt Erb, Tree Pittsburgh's director of urban forestry and a commission member. The commission is a quasi-governmental nonprofit whose members are appointed by Mayor Luke Ravenstahl.

In 2005, Davey Resource Group of Kent, Ohio, did an inventory of the city's street trees to determine the number, condition and species. There were 30,538 street trees.

A 2007 survey in parks came up with 5,666 trees. The urban forest master plan, which can be viewed at www.treepittsburgh.org, used the data from all previous studies to determine the best course for managing this green resource. It also developed a plan for counting the rest of the city's public trees.

The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy has already counted the trees in Frick, Schenley, Highland and Riverview parks; the Allegheny Commons trees have been counted as part of that park's own master plan.

"We will be inventorying in playgrounds and community parks" and other public landscaped areas that are not sidewalks, Mr. Erb said. The data will be used to plan for tree care and planting at each site.

The lowest tree numbers are in Chateau, the North Shore and Downtown, all of which have less than 10 percent of shaded area. The Strip District, Uptown and South Side Flats are tied with 12 percent. Deutschtown/East Allegheny has 14 percent, lower Lawrenceville 15 percent, Manchester 17 percent and Homewood South 18 percent.

Downtown got a small shot of green when Point Park University added almost 30 trees to help create a sense of place that's called for in its Academic Village Initiative, said Mariann Geyer, the school's vice president for external affairs.

Thirty trees in a three-block area "make a fairly big impact in creating a sense of place," she said. Six trees are in the Village Park at the corner of Wood Street and the Boulevard of the Allies.

"We cast a broad net when we put this plan together five years ago, getting many voices," including city planners and representatives from the Treevitalize collaborative of the city, county, state and Western Pennsylvania Conservancy.

"We even have some students involved in the Tree Tenders program," Ms. Geyer said. Tree Tenders are trained to be active volunteers in organized tree care events of Tree Pittsburgh.

"The inventory is really going to help us," said city forester Lisa Ceoffe. "A lot of work needs to be done, but it's not overwhelming. With Tree Pittsburgh, we will get a work plan together. We want to do more street tree plantings, but planting in open spaces increases use of parks."

The city has hundreds of little neighborhood parks, playgrounds and public areas around public buildings such as schools.

"We believe we will be able to get through the 10 lowest canopy neighborhoods" with the first grant, said Martha Isler, chair of the Shade Tree Commission, which is funded by bus ad revenues.

She said the implementation of the urban forest master plan will be done "section by section of the city, and we will align ourselves with the TreeVitalize plantings so we have everything up to date -- removals, all new plantings and updates of conditions.

"It's exciting we are able to coordinate so we're all heading in the same direction," Ms. Isler said of the commission, Tree Pittsburgh, TreeVitalize and the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy. "It's been a great partnership."

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Diana Nelson Jones: djones@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1626. Read her blog City Walkabout at www.post-gazette.com/citywalk.


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