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Carnegie tree plantings only part of the process

| Wednesday, April 24, 2013, 9:01 p.m.
Randy Jarosz | For The Signal Item
Volunteers (from left) CB McDonald of the Western PA Conservancy, Mel Cook of Carnegie and Phil Boyd of Carnegie spread mulch around a tree during Carnegie community tree planting day Saturday along West Main Street.
Randy Jarosz | For The Signal Item
Christine Fantini of Brentwood looks on as Shag Shaughnessy of Carnegie places a stake in the ground while planting trees at Carnegie Park.

An organization with the catchy name of TreeVitalize provided the 40 trees planted throughout Carnegie on Saturday, but its job didn't stop or start with that.

TreeVitalize, which started in Philadelphia in 2004 and came to Pittsburgh in 2008, oversees the process from the community's application to arranging for tree tenders once the trees are planted.

“We go through an extensive application process,” said TreeVitalize Pittsburgh director Jeffery Bergman. “It takes about six to nine months from first contact to when we first get trees in the ground.”

The program began accepting applications from communities in the Allegheny County in 2011. Rather than applying for funding, communities apply for trees.

TreeVitalize, in turn, sends foresters to the neighborhood to look at everything from viability to what types of trees would thrive in various areas in the neighborhood.

“You want to put the right trees in the right spot,” Bergman said. “You don't want to put a tall shade tree under power lines, for example.”

The organization hires contractors to create the planting area. The trees need a minimum of 30 feet to flourish, and contractors cut concrete and bring in topsoil if needed.

The organization relies on volunteers to help with planting on the community's designated planting day.

“We've learned how to make it manageable so people aren't out there digging for hours,” Bergman said.

TreeVitalize, a project of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy and other organizations, has a contract with a nursery in Butler County, which provides the trees. The nursery also acts as a broker – if the tree TreeVitalize needs isn't available, the nursery will find it for them.

The trees are all local, too.

“All of our plant material comes from within 150 miles of Pittsburgh,” Bergman said. Not only will trees already be acclimatized, he said, but the program promotes local green initiatives and saves on the use of fuels.

In addition to the planting and pre-planting process, TreeVitalize also coordinates care for trees after they're planted. If the tree is near a home, the homeowner can sign an agreement that outlines the tree-care process and says the care will extend for three years.

People can also volunteer to be tree-tenders. TreeVitalize and partner Tree Pittsburgh offer training classes on how to become a tree-tender.

“They become card-carrying, certified tree-tenders,” Bergman said.

In places where there are no volunteers, the organization hires a landscaper or contractor.

Megan Guza is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5810 or mguza@tribweb.com.

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