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Growing the Future: State College Wants You to Select New Tree Species

by on May 06, 2013 7:00 AM

You might not give a lot of thought to the trees lining the streets of State College, but the borough sure has. In 1997, an inventory found that almost 60% of street trees were maples.

Since then the borough has made a concerted effort to create some diversity on the streets. Anytime that a maple tree is removed the borough will replace it with a new species. Now, just 16 years later, Sugar Maples make up only 14% of the street trees in State College.

Graph from StateCollegePA.USIt’s not that the borough has anything against maple trees — when it comes to urban planning, diversity is an important tool in maintaining the town's 7,000 street trees.

“A good example would be if we had a problem with something like Dutch Elm disease again,” explained State College Borough Arborist Alan Sam. “If you have all one type of tree, you risk the chance of losing your entire urban forest in one go. The more diversity the better. It actually prevents diseases and insects from getting a foothold. It’s a good management tool.”

A lot goes in to choosing a new tree to be planted. Soil samples are examined. Arborists have to make sure that roots won’t interfere with pavement or sidewalks. Most importantly, the tree has to survive. “We do as many native plantings as we can but we do have some exotic ones as well. Another method is to chemically treat plants but we want to minimize that as much as possible,” said Sam.

The borough updates its recommended tree list every ten years or so. State College residents are now being asked for input on which new tree species should be planted in the future. According to Sam, crowd-sourcing those recommendations helps speed up the process.

“We have a volunteer tree commission that works with me in determining the list but we don’t know all of the trees. If there are trees that residents have found work for them, we’ll investigate that and maybe add it to our list. Getting suggestions from them certainly helps us,” said Sam.

A number of residents have already posted recommendations on the borough's website. Justin Wheeler says he prefers native trees, including Tulip Poplar, Black Birch, Tupelo Tree, Swamp White Oak and Ohio Buckeye.

Adrienne Waterson says, "My family would like to see Burr Oaks, and Chinquapin Oaks planted!"

To suggest your favorite tree Click Here.

Mitchell Wilston is a reporter and photographer for Onward State. He has also worked as a freelance journalist for
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