Plans Pa. Ave. trail outlined

When Penelec came in and took down 21 trees along Pennsylvania Ave. W. last year, the intent was that the City of Warren would replace them.

On Monday, Bruce Robinson and Tom Frair, city arborists, outlined to Warren City Council what replacing those trees might look like.

“This project has been in public view for probably 20 years,” Robinson said. “There is a significant opportunity to improve this site.”

He explained that the area is “already a bird sanctuary of sorts” and that the bank has been infested with a “significant amount of invasive species.”

The proposal from the arborists extends further than just replacing trees.

“Where the trees have been removed, a trail can be placed and that can be designed in such a way that it will enhance tree planting,” Robinson explained. Larger trees would be situated closer to the river while smaller trees can be located under or near the power line. “So we’re looking at a significant improvement of that area and our limitation kind of is, if the action is to proceed, we need to order the trees. Normally, this would have been done in the fall. (We’re) really behind the eight ball in terms of ordering the trees for this project.

“If we don’t get the trees ordered soon, we’re going to be missing the digging opportunity for bare root trees. (The) delay could be until the fall.”

“Are trees necessary for the stabilization of the bank there?” Councilman John Lewis asked.

“Probably not,” Robinson said. “There are some areas that are actively eroding. There is bare soil in areas on the bank. That can all be repaired by planting. It’s not a major issue.”

Lewis then asked what benefit the project would provide.

“Planting would be the “best way to handle invasives,” Robinson explained. “There are also a number of native plants along that bank as well.”

He explained that one native tree that could be encouraged is the sycamore. “As they are now, there are a hundred of them where there should be one, so nothing does well.”

By having Penelec remove the trees, Frair said that the city saved thousands of dollars in tree removal costs. “It was an opportune time… (to) rebeautify this area with planting that should work well for many years.”

Four specific types of trees are included in the arborists’ proposal. River birch, growing to 50 feet in height would be incorporated, as would flowering pear, flowering dogwood and European hornbeam, all of which would, when mature, not rise to the height of the electrical wires.

Robinson added that some small plants will be utilized to make the area look more like a park.

Lewis and fellow Councilman Sam Harvey advocated for leaving the area open as it currently is.

“Because some people prefer it open, some people prefer it planted, the open option doesn’t cost any money,” Harvey said.

“The south side can see into the city where it couldn’t in the past,” Lewis added.

One area of agreement was the necessity of stump removal.

Department of Public Works Director Mike Holtz estimated cost to remove the stumps at approximately $1,500. “We were going to remove 16 of the 21 stumps,” he said, while the others will be cut level to the ground.

City Planner David Hildebrand said that removing the stumps would “provide better choice for new planting sites.” He explained that the trees were originally removed “for maintenance reasons for one of their main electrical circuits” and that the city received a state forestry grant for $2,500, which requires a $2,500 match, to replace the trees. The local match will come from planting funding included in the 2013 budget.

Council approved the motion to pursue purchasing trees in a 5-2 vote with Lewis and Harvey dissenting.