Castle Shannon community unites to plant trees

Published May 1, 2013 at 11:48 am (Updated May 1, 2013 at 11:48 am)

A sunny springtime morning provided a nearly perfect backdrop for a community to get together for a good cause. On April 27, about 50 people showed up in their work clothes to plant 19 trees along several Castle Shannon streets. The project was carried out by a grant from TreeVitalize Pittsburgh, which is a joint project of Allegheny County, the City of Pittsburgh, Tree Pittsburgh, the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy.

Castle Shannon Council Vice President Michael Warhold, who is also a member of the Castle Shannon Revitalization Corporation, said the response of community members who wanted to volunteer to plant trees was “overwhelming.” “We’re just thrilled,” he said. “Community support is what drives this project. Without community involvement, we would not have had the opportunity to receive this grant.”

The volunteers, who ranged in age from 6 years old on up, were split into two teams to work on two areas in Castle Shannon. One team worked along James Street off of Willow Avenue and another team worked on planting trees along Poplar, Park and Willow avenues.

Prior to the start of the planting, volunteers received a tutorial on how to properly plant a tree from Jeff Bergman of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, and Joe Stavish of Tree Pittsburgh. Bergman said the trees planted under the TreeVitalize program have about a 96 percent survival rate.

Bergman said so far this spring TreeVitalize has had 23 volunteer plantings around Pittsburgh. He said by the end of the season, TreeVitalize will have helped to plant 1,500 trees.

“It’s a great turnout,” Bergman said. “The Castle Shannon people are very organized.” He added that he could tell by the way everyone was interacting with each other that Castle Shannon is a “very active community.”

The trees planted weren’t small – each weighed about 300 pounds. The trees planted on James Street are Kentucky Coffee trees, and are shade trees that when mature will grow to about 50 feet tall. More ornamental, showy trees that won’t interfere with power lines were planted along Park and Willow avenues, including Red Bud trees and Cherry Trees. Elm trees were planted along Poplar Avenue.

“I like helping people,” said 9-year-old Sarah Goldenberg, who helped plant several trees. She was especially excited about the trees with purple flowers that she helped to plant in front of her house on Park Avenue. Sarah and her 6 year-old sister, Abigail, helped plant trees along Poplar Avenue as well.

Sarah Williams, a senior at Keystone Oaks High School, said she heard about the tree planting from her biology teacher and thought it was a “cool opportunity.” She, along with several other students from Keystone Oaks, helped to plant several trees. “I want to make Castle Shannon beautiful,” Williams said.

After the planting, which took a little more than two hours, Debbie Gallo, director of Castle Shannon’s Shade Tree Commission said she was “shocked and thrilled” by the turnout of volunteers for the planting. Both she and Warhold said they hope to make the TreeVitalize planting an annual event in Castle Shannon.

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