Public safety committee learns about tree problems

Shawn Hardy news@echo-pilot.com

Bob Manahan, Greencastle's public works manager, made it clear at last week's public safety committee meeting that he is not anti-tree.

However, he is worried about the problems caused by some of the trees growing along Greencastle's streets.

"From here on out, we need to be really smart about where we plant them," Manahan said. Committee members Larry Faight and Joel Amsley agreed there should be more discussion with the Greencastle Shade Tree Commission concerning where, how and what kind of trees are planted.

"I think we never had a clear understanding with the commission," Faight said, noting there also have been a lot of changes in the membership of the commission that oversees tree-planting in the borough.

Trees help beautify the town and Amsley said he would like to see more, but also wants discussion about the broader plan.

Stormwater management is a big issue in the community right now because of a new fee enacted to fund federal water cleanup requirements and Amsley pointed out trees are important as they soak up and filter stormwater.

From a public works perspective, problems caused by trees fall into three main areas: growing into wires; pushing up sidewalks; and obstructing traffic signals and signs.

Manahan provided pictures from around town in each category, including one on South Washington Street that falls into all three. It impedes the view of the traffic signal at Baltimore Street, has grown into electric lines and is damaging the sidewalk.

The borough is responsible for repairing sidewalk damage caused by trees it planted. When trees are cut down, there also are stumps to remove, which can entail sidewalk work.

One way to protect sidewalks in the future would be to plant trees using a grate that makes roots grow down and not out, Lorraine Hohl, assistant borough manager, said.

Manahan estimated the cost for a 4- by 4-foot grate at $200 to $400. He said the Borough of Gettysburg uses grates and he will get more information about them.

When tree branches grow into electric lines, they have to be cut by the power company or a power company contractor and not the borough public works department.

Covering up street signs is a public safety issue, Manahan said, pointing out one tree that blocks a pedestrian crossing sign on Baltimore Street and another on North Carlisle Street that blocks a stop sign. In addition, tree branches can make it hard to see business signs.