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Brentwood-Baldwin-Whitehall Shade Tree Commission making a difference

| Wednesday, March 13, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

Additional foliage in parks and elsewhere on public land will help to improve the standard of living in Brentwood, Baldwin and Whitehall, residents say.

“It makes neighborhoods more pleasant,” said Whitehall resident Jonathan Turban, chairman of the state's first multimunicipal shade-tree commission, formed in the boroughs last year. “Trees benefit the communities in many ways.”

Each town appointed three representatives to the Brentwood-Baldwin-Whitehall Shade Tree Commission. During its first four months, the commission, formed with help from Economic Development South and the Penn State Center, has worked to add trees and begin tallying how many already exist.

“We're trying to bring an awareness to the idea that trees are a benefit,” Turban said.

In November, the same month in which shade-tree commission members first met, a tree planting was held in Brentwood Park, where 25 species were received from the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy's TreeVitalize program.

A tree-planting and park-maintenance day now is being planned for spring in Whitehall's Snyder Park. The borough will receive 15 free trees from TreeVitalize, Turban said.

“We want something that you can actually touch at the end of the day,” Turban said.

Next, Baldwin Borough likely will get its share. Commission members approached council in February about planting 15 to 20 trees on the municipal-building property.

Council at its Feb. 19 voting meeting agreed to allow the commission to plant trees on public land but officials must give an OK for their location.

Commission members must secure the free trees and research the best location for each species.

Much planning goes into a tree planting. Residents even are trained as “tree tenders” to oversee the foliage upkeep in future years.

“It's not like I'm just coming up here with a shovel and picking some areas and digging some holes,” said Baldwin Borough commission representative Patrick Bondi.

Members of the commission next hope to secure trees for private properties in the boroughs, as well, Turban said.

The commission also plans to work with students in the Baldwin-Whitehall and Brentwood Borough school districts to log a GPS location, species and diameter of each tree on public land in the boroughs, Turban said.

The survey would help to identify potential problems, such as what trees need to be pruned to eliminate municipal liability, he said.

The group's successes so far shows “municipalities can work together” for the good of the region, Turban said.

“Even though we live in separate neighborhoods, this is all one community,” he said.

Stephanie Hacke is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5818 or shacke@tribweb.com.

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