Gettysburg Shade Tree Commission eyes a restored treescape, but faces issues

The Gettysburg Borough Shade Tree Commission (STC) is actively pursuing its  mission of keeping the borough green with a vibrant “treescape.”

The STC consists of residents appointed for 5-year terms.  It is responsible for the planting, replanting, pruning, health, and removal of plants, shrubs, and trees within the borough as described in the relevant section of the borough’s Code of Ordinances.

broken sidewalk 1

Current members are Borough Public Works Director Robert Harbaugh, Borough Public Words Foreman Bradley LaBure, Martin Jolin, Susan Naugle, and David Rice (Chair). Rebecca Brown serves as an alternate

Rice said the commission meets 6 times per year, on the 2nd Tuesday of the month, at the borough office.” “We put our agenda in two weeks ahead of the meeting and post our minutes at the following meeting,” he said.

The council has focused its mission on planting trees.  “We looked for places that needed trees. We started on York St. where 18 Bradford pears had been cut down,” said Rice. “But we haven’t yet planted on Baltimore St, because there may be changes in that area.”

Rice said the commission planted 28 trees in 2023 using about $3,000 from its overall budget of about $20,000. The remainder of the budget is used for pruning, maintaining, and removing dead trees.

Rice said that although the commission talked to some property owners before planting in their adjacent property, and in at least one case did not plant because the owner did not want the trees, “some of the trees we did plant have caused a bit of a controversy.”

Rice said some residents did not want the trees and others complained that the trees, as they grew, were buckling their sidewalks.

Going forward, Rice said the commission needed to walk a fine line. The commission’s stated mission is to plant trees where they are needed but understands that community input is important.

“The borough gives us authority to plant trees, but we’ve contacted property owners to try to enlist them in the process,” said Rice. “Our approach is to be as communicative as we can.”

A major difficulty is that when trees damage sidewalks the adjacent property owners are responsible. According to borough ordinance 22-1014, property owners are responsible for maintaining the sidewalk adjacent to their property, even though the sidewalk may not be on their property.

“My deed stops well shy of my sidewalk,” said Rice. “My property doesn’t include the sidewalk or planting strip. But on other properties, the deed goes all the way to the street.”

But Rice said each property was different and it was hard to make proper determinations. There are no clear property maps in the borough or the county. “That introduces another element,” he said.

Rice said ADA compliance is also relevant. Planting trees near a sidewalk can block access for wheelchairs.

Rice said the commission had received $5,000 from the borough for pilot projects to look for ways to avoid taking down trees.

A current issue facing the commission is the status of two trees at 66 E. Stevens St. that have buckled the sidewalks. “It will cost $5,000 to remove the trees, but how can we save them?” Rice asked.

“We have 11 places we want to put trees this spring,” said Rice. 

Rice said the commission was working with the borough council, but that they were not required to abide by council’s recommendations.

“We’re kind of finding our way but with the idea of the importance of keeping a proper treescape. We have a nice set of trees. We’re fortunate in what we have,” said Rice.

Shade Tree Commission Rcommended Tree Species

Small Trees: Mature Height of 20 — 35 Feet

HEDGE MAPLE — Acer campestre

AMERICAN HORNBEAM — Carpinus caroliniana

EUROPEAN HORNBEAM — Carpinus betuls

KOUSA DOGWOOD — Cornus kousa

CORNELIAN CHERRY — cornus mas

THORNLESS COCKSPUR HAWTHORN — Crataegus crusgalli inermis

WASHINGTON HAWTHORN — Crataigus phaenopyrum

CRABAPPLES — Malus cultivars

GOLDEN RAINTREE — Koelreuteria paniculata

PURPLELEAF PLUM — Prunus cerasifera

JAPANESE FLOWERING CHERRY — Prunus serrulata “Amanogawa,” “Kwanzan”

SERVICEBERRY — Amelanchier x grandifolia “Robin Hill,” “Autumn Brilliance” or “Cumulus”

MOUNTAIN ASH — (European or Korean) — Sorbus aucuparia or alnifolia

Medium Trees: Mature Height of 35 — 50 Feet

AMERICAN YELLOWWOOD — Cladrastis lutea

IMPERIAL HONEYLOCUST — Gleditsia tricanthos inermis

CAROLINA SILVERBELL — Halesia carolina

AMUR CORKTREE — Phellodenron amurense “Macho” or “Shademaster,” male only

CALLERY PEAR CVS. “ARISTOCRAT,” “REDSPIRE,” and “CAPITAL” – Pyrus calleryana

Large Trees: Mature Height of 50 Feet or More

LONDON PLAINTREE — Platanus acerifolia “Bloodgood”

NORTHERN RED OAK — Quercus rubra

PIN OAK — Quercus palustris

ENGLISH OAK — Quercus robur

HONEYLOCUST — Gleditsia Tricanthos inermis “Skyline,” “Shademaster”

GINKGO — Ginkgo biloba (males only)

GREEN ASH — Fraxinus pennsylvanica “Summit,” “Patmore,” or “Urbanite”

WHITE ASH — Fraxinus americana “Rosehill,” “Autumn Purple”

ZELKOVA — Zelkova serrata “Green Vase,” “Village Green”

LITTLE LEAF LINDEN — Tilia cordata “Greenspire” or others

SWEETGUM — Liquidambar styraciflua (“Roundifolial” is seedless)

BLACKGUM or TUPELO — Nyssa sylvatica

DAWN REDWOOD — Metaasequoia glyptostroboides

BALD CYPRESS — Taxodium distichum

PAGODA or SCHOLARTREE — Sophora japomica “Regent,” “Princeton Upright”

NORWAY MAPLE — Acer platanoides “Superform,” “Emerald Queen,” “Summer Shade,” “Cleveland,” “Columnar”

RED MAPLE — Acer rubrum “Red Sunset,” “October Glory,” “Armstrong,” “Karpick”

SYCAMORE MAPLE — Acer pseudoplatanus

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Charles (Chuck) Stangor is Gettysburg Connection's Owner, Publisher, and Editor in Chief. I would like to hear from you. Please contact me at cstangor@gettysburgconnection.org.

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Nancy Cook
Nancy Cook
1 month ago

A tree discussion took place at a borough meeting in early 2020 and the library representative gave a detailed report on how they redid their Baltimore St. sidewalk and replanted trees by sinking a metal circular plate around the root system to force the roots to go down and not up thus preventing the buckling the sidewalk. This was done at their expense and it seems to have worked. Is there any reason not to recheck with their procedure?
I was impressed with their idea.

Sharron Michels
Sharron Michels
1 month ago

I’m all for tree lined streets. Not only are they beautiful but they help deal with pollution, noise and heat generated from heavy traffic on our streets. Perhaps a better question would be “why are Borough residents responsible for sidewalks, not within their property boundaries”? This is an unusual arrangement. The issue is not only tree damage to sidewalks (which can be mitigated somewhat by tree choice), but we have a serious issue in the Borough of tree trash (leaves, pods, etc) falling into the street and being pushed by rainfall into the drains, thereby flooding the streets. This has… Read more »

Gene Ozsinanlar
Gene Ozsinanlar
1 month ago

Very informative, thanks.

Donald Marritz
Donald Marritz
1 month ago

Thanks for this reporting…not available anywhere else

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