CLARKS SUMMIT — The borough has been recognized as a shady place — in a good way.
The borough made a promise to increase its tree coverage in 2006 and was recently named a “Tree City USA” community by the Arbor Day Foundation for the 10th consecutive year.
“The borough made a commitment, when the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Initiative became an issue, to increase its urban tree canopy,” Borough Manager Virginia Kehoe said. “The Shade Tree Commission was reenacted and they have been phenomenal.”
The commission’s purpose is to promote the public’s health, safety and welfare by the regulation of removal, planting, and preservation of trees. The objectives of the commission are to advise borough council members on urban forestry matters, identify sources of funds, such as grants, to improve the quality of the downtown and residential trees, provide public awareness of the value of healthy trees and the hazards of diseased trees, and look for innovative ways to obtain assistance through the use of volunteers.
“The goal of the Shade Tree Commission isn’t to make the town prettier, but that’s one of the big by-products,” Kehoe said. “Their goal is to improve the quality of the community, particularly working with stormwater. By increasing our urban canopy, it’s going to help us control the stormwater. Coincidentally, it looks nice and makes for a more marketable residential homes and a more appealing downtown area.”
According Shade Tree Commission member Molly Philbin, it’s important for residents to report any to new trees on their properties.
“We need to plant more than 90 trees each year to meet the requirements of the Urban Tree Canopy Program,” Philbin said. “It would be nice if people who plant trees would notify the borough or Shade Tree Commission because every tree counts toward this goal.”
Kehoe added residents can see monetary benefits for adding trees to their property.
“Hopefully, in the long run, they will see reduced taxes by reporting their trees,” she said.
Residents may purchase a limited selection of trees at a reduced price from the commission, which will recommend trees that will be beneficial to the area.
The Shade Tree Commission drafted the borough’s tree ordinance, passed in 2006, which regulates the planting, removing and maintaining of trees along public ways. It also prohibits the planting and growing of certain trees, requires clearance above streets and sidewalks, established a responsibility for for the removal and trimming of trees and prescribed penalties for violations.
“We can’t regulate what people do on their private property, but there are so many people who want to clear out their property and get rid of trees, not recognizing this disadvantages,” Kehoe said. “This ordinance requires a permit for work in the right of way.”
According to Kehoe, there are many benefits to an increased tree presence in the borough, both short-term and long-term, including increased property value, lower heating and cooling bills, improved health for citizens, improved stormwater control, and improved water quality.
“The ambient temperature in the community is affected by whether or not we have shade trees,” she said. “Trees are the lungs of the world. In the long-term, everybody benefits from having them.”
In order to maximize the impact of each tree, the Shade Tree Commission has been strategic in their plantings.
“With regard to the Chesapeake Bay initiative, the most important place to begin planting is along waterways,” Philbin said. “We have planted a lot of trees along the creeks and tributaries in the borough, which will help purify the water that gets dumped into the Chesapeake Bay.”