Thursday, February 18, 2016

Columbia River Park to get new trees

Columbia Borough has begun the process for selecting and planting new trees at Columbia River Park to replace those recently removed due to safety concerns. Final selection depends on availability, but several species have been tentatively chosen due to their ability to thrive in wet areas and along riparian buffers. The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources has suggested the following as acceptable species for grant opportunities:

Common Baldcypress
Swamp White Oak
Dawn Redwood
Heritage River Birch
American Linden
Thornless Honeylocust
London Plane-tree

The borough would also like to plant evergreens, magnolias, and shrubs to complement the various heights and widths of the plantings.

According to Public Works Director Ron Miller, the project will be funded through a grant opportunity from DCNR’s TreeVitalize, which has a value of $15,000, with a 50% match required from the borough. TreeVitalize is a public-private partnership to help restore tree cover. Planting will begin this spring, with the entire park riverfront to be planted by fall.

The project originated several years ago with an ongoing evaluation of existing River Park trees, many of which were found to be in serious decline. Public Works crews continually cleaned up large branches after storms and high winds. Some branches had nearly hit visitors, and others had damaged benches, light poles, and picnic tables.

Crews tried pruning trees and dead branches over the years, but trees were found to be dying from the top down. Foliage was completely absent from the top third of many trees, and dead branches showed considerable damage from insect infestations.

Trees were also dying due to unsuitability to the wet environment. Black locust, Norway maples, mulberry and other species had girdled roots, and several failed completely and fell over.

In light of continuing damage, the borough decided to remove failing trees and replace them with new species better suited to the riverfront.

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