City trees could be in trouble

The recent brouhaha caused by the heavy-handed trimming of tree limbs along Broad Avenue – curb to sky – in preparation for repaving could lead to a full-scale gateway streetscape project, according to city Planning Director Lee Slusser.

As a result of the cutting by a contractor operating on PennDOT specifications, and “especially in light of the state’s commitment to remove most of the damaged trees,” coupled with PennDOT’s paving plans for the avenue, city staff has been considering a “comprehensive approach,” said City Manager Joe Weakland in a memo.

The staff has obtained clearance from the state’s Historical Preservation office for a streetscape project and is getting ready for an income survey to see if the neighborhood qualifies for community development block grant funds to pay for it, according to Weakland and Slusser.

In the past, such surveys have required demonstrating that more than 50 percent of households in a neighborhood are low to moderate income.

Many of the sidewalks, which include brick, concrete and asphalt, are heaved and broken, and much of that resulted from the roots of the street trees, almost all of which are Norway maple.

The city and PennDOT plan to call a neighborhood meeting to discuss the issues in August, according to Weakland.

Just as damage to the Broad Avenue maples might lead to an unexpected project, prospective harm to curbside ash trees in the city also might lead to unplanned work.

The recent discovery of the emerald ash borer in Blair County this year means that ash trees here are in danger, and the city is trying to identify all those that are along curbs – and thus under control of the Shade Tree Commission – and whether it would be most cost-effective to cut them down or treat them.

The city has already identified 52 planted by the commission in the 1990s, including 43 on 17th Street, Slusser said.

The city is working with the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources on the effort, Slusser said.

While the city wouldn’t be involved in removing or treating trees that not located along the streets, it would share helpful information about dealing with those, Slusser said.

The emerald ash borer is an exotic beetle whose larvae feed on the inner bark of ash trees, disrupting the trees’ ability to transport water and nutrients, according to

A native of Asia, it was first discovered in the U.S. in Michigan in 2002, according to the website.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.