Gettysburg Borough Council talks trees

The Gettysburg Borough Council hopes to increase communication with the group that plants Gettysburg’s trees.

The Shade Tree Commission is responsible for the planting, replanting, pruning, health, and removal of plants, shrubs, and trees within the borough. The commission has been inactive for several years, but Chair David Rice and his team are eager to make the borough greener.

shade trees

At the borough workshop on Nov. 27, Rice told the council the commission is focusing on planting trees on Chambersburg, Carlisle, and York streets. The commission is waiting for the Baltimore Street Revitalization Plan to come to fruition before it turns its attention there.

Gettysburg trees by right

The commission directs the borough’s Public Works Department where to plant trees within the borough’s right of way. The law states the borough has a right to plant trees where they wish. The commission tries to work with property owners whose sidewalks will be affected, Rice said.

“Not everyone shares the enthusiasm for the trees that members of the tree commission do,” Rice said.

Property owners often worry about how a tree will affect their sidewalks. By law, the borough can plant a tree on a sidewalk but the property owner is required to maintain the sidewalk. If tree roots damage a sidewalk, the property owner is responsible for repairs.

“I think the prevalence of those problems is not nearly as much as we think, it’s the severity that captures people’s attention,” Shade Tree Commission Member Martin Jolin said.

Jolin said the borough’s Public Works Department adds 18-inch tree root barriers to the trees so roots grown down and not out. 

Residents often help care for trees after they are planted, Commission Member Susan Naugle said.

“We want the community to be part of this whole idea of creating shade, beauty, and coolness in the summer,” Naugle said.

Growing tree communication

Rice told the council the commission will create a document outlining best practices and challenges. The document will include steps to take if a property owner does not want a tree. Council President Wes Heyser said the document will help council create policies, if it chooses to do so. Heyser’s term on council ends Dec. 31 and he did not seek re-election.

The borough’s Planning Department is mapping tree locations to track where trees are planted, Naugle said.

Council Vice President Matt Moon suggested the commission add grates around trees to increase walkable space on the sidewalk. He noted the borough can build grates using concentric circles that can be removed as the tree matures. Rice agreed the approach was “a great idea.”

The next council president will decide when to resume the Gettysburg tree discussion, Heyser said.

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​Alex J. Hayes, Editor, has spent almost two decades in the Adams County news business. He is heavily involved in the community through his volunteer roles at the Rotary Club of Gettysburg, Saint Francis Xavier Catholic Church, United Way of Adams County, and Healthy Adams County. Alex is also a freelance writer for several other publications in South Central Pennsylvania.
Alex encourages readers to contact him at

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Donald Marritz
Donald Marritz
4 months ago

I love this. Reporting not seen anywhere else. Thanks Alex

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