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Dormont Park gets arborists' attention

Matthew Santoni
| Wednesday, March 19, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Later this spring, tree trimmers will show off their skills by shimmying up trees in Dormont Park.

This week, they're donating about $30,000 worth of trimming and removal work.

The Pennsylvania-Delaware Chapter of the International Society of Arboriculture, the professional licensing and training organization for tree trimmers, will hold its Arbor Day of Service on Fridayin Dormont, in exchange for the community hosting a climbing championship for the western half of the chapter on May 17, said Matt Erb, director of urban forestry at Tree Pittsburgh and chairman of the service committee.

The borough conducted an inventory of trees in the 20-acre park in 2011 that helped identify which trees are in need of removal, pruning of dead wood or aesthetic pruning, Erb said.

“They have a pretty big maintenance backlog,” he said. “There's more work than we can handle in one day, so we'll try to prioritize the most-used parts of the park, like areas around pavilions and playgrounds.”

Brian Tarbert, an arborist for the Davey Tree Expert Co., said the group chose Dormont Park for its extensive stand of large-diameter trees, most around 80 to 100 years old, that were in need of work.

The inventory recommended 78 trees for removal and 329 trees for pruning based on their condition and risk factors. The borough cut down some of the 78 trees, and some others have deteriorated since the inventory.

The arborists hope to prune at least 75 trees and cut down about 20 or more if weather and resources allow, Erb said.

Because one tree crew costs about $1,500 for a day of work, bringing 20 to 25 crews with a total of about 60 workers to Dormont for free will save the borough at least $30,000, Erb said.

“Basically, we just ask the borough to provide food. We work for food,” Tarbert said.

Part of the work will be to prep trees for the climbing championship events in May, said Robert Kruljac, owner of Gibsonia-based Arborel Tree Services and chairman of the competition committee.

The competition will include events simulating common work tasks graded on technique; timed events for climbing trees and climbing ropes; tossing throwlines and climbing lines accurately into trees; and a simulated rescue of a stranded coworker using a crash-test dummy, Kruljac said.

Because the arborists' goals are to keep trees healthy and alive, they use ropes and saddles rather than climbing spikes, which can damage trees, he said. Tarbert will be the chief judge.

There only will be about 25 competitors using the park in May, although the group welcomes spectators. Past competitions used North Park, Allegheny Cemetery and Allegheny Commons.

“North Park was great. We got a lot of walkers, joggers stopping by to see what was going on,” Kruljac said. “We're trying to further our industry's image.”

Matthew Santoni is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5625 or

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