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TreeVitalize beautifies hospital campus

| Saturday, May 25, 2013, 1:26 a.m.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
Western Pennsylvania Conservancy director of community greenspace services Art DeMeo talks with UPMC McKeesport vice president of operations Merle Taylor and president Cynthia M. Dorundo along Evans Street, where trees are planted.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
UPMC McKeesport grounds staff Bryan Myers, foreground, and Greg Guercio tend to trees in the hospital's courtyard.

Anyone visiting or driving past UPMC McKeesport will notice more trees and flowers on the campus.

In an effort to beautify the grounds, the hospital has joined forces with Western Pennsylvania Conservancy and the city of McKeesport to embark on the TreeVitalize project.

“This was a catalyst of the Frew Courtyard,” hospital president Cynthia Dorundo said. “Employees say that area looks so beautiful so we wanted to expand on that to make this a pleasant place to be and help the healing mission of the hospital.”

Merle Taylor, UPMC McKeesport vice president of operations, said he was introduced to the conservancy with the courtyard project.

“It really changed how the area looked. The board and medical staff requested we look into the beautification of the whole campus,” he said.

Art DeMeo, director of Community Greenspace Services, is working with the hospital on the project, which involves the planting of 57 trees, and the addition of hanging baskets and planters. After visiting the campus and looking at its green infrastructure, he came up with a plan he presented to hospital officials.

That plan includes a variety of trees such as hedge maple, redbud, flowering crabapple, weeping cypress, cherry and arborvitae. Spring trees have been planted along Evans Street and along one of the hospital's parking lots, with the remainder of the trees scheduled to be planted in the fall.

“In the next two to three weeks, we will place hanging baskets along Evans,” DeMeo said, noting permission was granted from Duquesne Light to hang the baskets on their poles.

Long concrete planters will be placed at the loading dock and the YMCA parking lot and will have seasonal plantings twice a year.

“In areas where there are tree-lined streets, studies show there is a significant increase in the amount of money spent in the businesses,” DeMeo said. “There are also health benefits from the shade, as well as a reduction in crime, pollution and vandalism.”

To accommodate the planting of trees along Evans, the hospital joined a partnership with the city to make cuts in the sidewalk.

“The city donated all the work time,” Dorundo said, noting the hospital's cost for the trees and two-year maintenance is $80,000. “That amount includes the spring and fall planting of the trees, the trees themselves, maintenance of the trees, and watering the hanging baskets.”

Routine care of the trees will be the responsibility of tree tenders, members of the hospital's maintenance staff who will be trained through the conservancy's Tree Tender program.

“An arborist will come here and train them on their own trees so they will know specifically what they need to do,” DeMeo said.

In the fall, the Mon River Fleet Leos Club, through a grant from the McKeesport Hospital Foundation, will help with tree planting. They also will be trained in the care and maintenance of the trees.

“We want to see this make a tremendous impact,” Dorundo said. “We will study other areas on the campus as part of the beautification.”

Taylor hopes the hospital's initiative will spark interest in other city businesses.

“It would be nice if Fifth Avenue could be tree-lined the whole way to the municipal building,” he said.

Carol Waterloo Frazier is an editor for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1916, or