Iconic Murrysville tree sign needs costly maintenance
By Rossilynne Skena Culgan
Published: Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
The 850 iconic spruce trees that spell “MURRYSVILLE” on a hill overlooking the community are overgrown, and the long-term fix to sharpen the message on the world-record sign could be costly.
“I believe the sign is in a state of disrepair,” Murrysville's chief administrator, Jim Morrison, told council this week. “The trees are extremely high. You only see “VILLE” when it snows.
“That Murrysville tree sign has had a long history in this community,” he said. “I think we as the decision-makers here have to decide whether we're going to take care of that sign like it should be taken care of, or we're going to let it grow in.”
Each year, the municipality pays $2,500 for maintenance of the eight-acre plot off Pleasant Valley Road. The Sportsman and Landowners Alliance of Murrysville group mows and clears the site, but the decades-old trees are beginning to “intergrow” because of their age, group president Carl Patty said.
Patty wants to see work to make the letters more visible.
“It needs some extensive trimming of the limbs ... so that it makes the letters crisp and easy to read again,” he said.
Boy Scouts planted the sign between 1932 and 1933, earning 50 cents per day, Patty said. The sign has been included in the Guinness Book of World Records several times.
Each letter stands about 150 feet tall. The “M” alone comprises 72 trees. The “Y” points to Haymaker No. 1, the world's first commercial gas well.
The sportsman alliance took over care of the sign in 1977, continually replanting to replace trees destroyed by deer. Members are aging and can't work on the steep hill to tend to the Norway spruce and blue spruce trees like they used to, Patty said.
Officials will need to hire a company to trim the trees, which are 30 to 40 feet high, Patty said. Or council could consider an extensive and “very, very expensive” replanting process, he said.
Morrison recommended seeking an evaluation of the sign from an organization such as the county conservation district. An arborist could determine the cost to restore the sign and maintain it, Morrison said.
In addition, council President Joan Kearns suggested contacting Penn State University's forestry school to request help.
Patty noted that trimming the trees is only a short-term fix that will last about five to seven years. After that, officials will have to consider a cutting and replanting process.
“Between now and then, the community's going to have to raise, probably at today's prices, $100,000 (to replant),” he said.
To help raise money, he said, the tops of the trees could be sold to make 850 Christmas trees.
Rossilynne Skena is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.
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