Volunteers add trees along Harrison streets
Thirty people gathered in a grassy median adjacent to the Donut Connection along Freeport Road in Harrison, their hands gloved in part to guard against the Wednesday morning cold, in part to prepare for three hours of volunteer gardening.
Representatives from TreeVitalize, a state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources public-private partnership designed to grow tree cover statewide, were there to oversee the planting of 15 trees.
Volunteers planted 10 trees in the grassy area off Freeport Road, and five off Broadview Boulevard — three in front of the Harrison Hi-Rise apartments, two in front of private residences.
Wednesday's planting and a planned Nov. 9 planting of 19 trees near Highlands Middle School and high school are the result of two benchmarks met by the township:
• Harrison established a five-member tree committee late last year.
• In January, the township passed ordinance regulating the types of trees planted and grown in the township.
Both were required to be eligible to apply for a TreeVitalize grant.
“Hopefully, we can get more trees planted in the township and get people involved in things,” said Tom Cajka, tree committee chairman. “We thought this would be a great place to start. Maybe, in a year or two, we get some picnic tables out here.”
Cajka said Harrison Commissioner Chuck Dizard is a “driving force” behind the project. Dizard said the township already has applied for 12 more trees to be planted in the Natrona playground next spring.
“This is like a dream come true,” Dizard said. “The township, I don't think, ever has had a formal tree program. The public space, especially along Freeport Road, is fairly naked, so it begins to set an example of the importance and value of trees.”
The trees come at no public cost, but with the requirement that someone agrees to water them for three years. Harrison signed for the trees in public spaces, residents for trees on private land.
TreeVitalize forester Brian Crooks said the program helps to plant about 600 trees in each of its two planting seasons. The program is in the second week of its fall planting season and will continue planting until close to Thanksgiving. The other planting season is each spring.
“You get an immediate impact. People in this median will see all the trees, and it'll really make a statement,” Crooks said. “For Harrison Township, it's really great because they didn't have any tree ordinances or committees set up before, and that's one thing with our program that we require municipalities to have because it's an investment for us. We want our trees protected.”
Marah Vecenie, a forestry project coordinator with the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy and TreeVitalize, began the volunteer event by leading a 15-minute tree planting demonstration with several TreeVitalize representatives.
Vecenie said the 15 trees planted Wednesday include white oak, hackberry, baldcypress, green hawthorn and Kentucky coffeetree.
As she and her crew finished their walkthrough, Vecenie explained that the Christmas tree-sized bald cypress she just planted, in the right environment, can grow to over 70 feet tall.
“A little dirt goes a long way,” she said.
Andrew Erickson is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at email@example.com or 412-320-7980.