Bethel Park lost 17% of its tree cover from 2010-15, according to a study by the environmental nonprofit group Tree Pittsburgh.
“Although we had some commercial development come in, the majority of the tree loss, oddly enough, was off residential properties,” Brian Tarbert said.
The president of the Bethel Park Shade Tree Commission explained why.
“Bethel Park is blessed to have large, old-growth trees, but eventually they get too old and have to be removed,” he said. “Part of what we want to do is try to encourage residents to replant those trees that are removed.”
Members of the commission, which was formed last year, also have the goal of educating residents about the importance of trees with regard to the environments, aesthetics and general quality of life.
And so they chose an educational site for the commission’s first major project.
On Oct. 9, students at Neil Armstrong Middle School had the opportunity to help plant 20 October glory maples at various locations on the grounds, with guidance from Tarbert and Jim Jenkins, who owns a lawn and garden center on Painters Run Road.
“They get to be about 50 to 60 feet in height at maturity, with a nice canopy,” Jenkins said. “It will be a very nice tree for this location, for the children in the future to be able to come out and sit in the shade of a tree that we planted now.”
The fifth- and sixth-grade students assisted with tasks such as transporting mulch by wheelbarrow, digging holes for the trees and making sure they were planted properly.
A next step for the shade tree commission is to conduct a survey of public land, including municipal parks and Bethel Park School District property, to help locate trees that need to be removed for safety purposes and to determine prime locations for new plantings.
For the Neil Armstrong project, the commission received donations from members of the community, and one if its functions going forward is to apply for grants to help cover associated costs.
According to Tree Pittsburgh, which established in 2006 by the Pittsburgh Shade Tree Commission, Allegheny County lost more than 1.7 million trees between 2010 and 2015, about 1,000 per day and nearly 11,000 acres of canopy cover.
The organization advocates for the planting of trees to help improve air quality by their removing of pollutants and reduction of ozone formation. Other benefits include mitigating water pollution through filtration and soil stabilization, and providing root systems to reduce the impact of flooding.
For more information, visit www.treepittsburgh.org.