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Valley News Dispatch

New Kensington finds useful data in city tree inventory

| Sunday, Dec. 24, 2017, 12:51 p.m.

The New Kensington Shade Tree Commission set out in July to count the number of trees on city-owned property.

Volunteers from the Pennsylvania Outdoor Corps took on the task, and from July 17 through 28 they noted the location, size, species and condition of trees found on city land or in a public right of way.

The results are in, and in total the group counted 1,092 publicly maintained trees, representing more than a dozen different species.

The corps also identified 140 potential planting sites.

City Councilman Dante Cicconi, who oversees the shade tree commission, said having the data is important in assisting both government officials and the public in utilizing best management practices for the city's tree assets.

Counting trees allows the commission to more effectively plan management of trees growing on city property, he said, and to demonstrate the city's needs when it comes time to apply for grant funding.

Celine Colbert, a forester with the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, said the Urban Tree Inventory will enable the city and its residents to understand the cost savings benefit of their local tree population.

“The average annual benefit of each tree is $78, and the total benefit is just over $85,000 that these trees are providing,” she said.

Most of that comes from the amount of energy each tree conserves, Colbert said.

“Our public trees alone, not counting what is in people's yards, they save energy equal to (the amount used by) 113 households per year,” Colbert said.

Trees save money by providing shade, reducing cooling costs during summer, and providing a break for wind during the winter, reducing heating costs. According to the Arbor Day Foundation, a row of evergreens next to a home can cut winter heating costs by up to 30 percent.

Trees also filter a lot of stormwater, Colbert said.

“Water equal to, if you left your hose running for two years straight,” she said of New Kensington's nearly 1,100 trees.

Trees also assist in air quality improvements, reducing the risk of asthma in children, Colbert said.

The inventory also revealed a surprising problem for the city. A lot of the trees counted, about 10 percent, are Callery pear — an invasive species native to China and Vietnam.

“Since they tend to compete with native species, we no longer recommend planting Callery pear,” Colbert said.

The Pennsylvania Outdoor Corps is staffed with young adult volunteers and, according to the program's website, “offers work experience, job training, and educational opportunities to young people who complete recreation and conservation projects on Pennsylvania's public lands.”

Matthew Medsger is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-226-4675, or via Twitter @matthew_medsger.

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