The Oakmont Shade Tree Commission annually contracts a tree service to complete routine tree care for the borough owned trees within the public right of way. These tasks include tree removal, tree pruning and stump removal and they are only completed during the winter months. (emergencies are handled differently). If you would like to bring more prompt attention to a vacant site, then please submit a Tree Service Request Form and email it to the Shade Tree Commission at OakmontSTC@oakmontborough.com. To have work completed during winter, please submit requests no later than October 1st.
The Shade Tree Commission also annually plants trees to replace removals and fill vacant sites. If you would like to be considered sooner for an upcoming planting, please let us know. All newly planted trees are chosen by professional urban foresters according to industry standard best management practices for compatibility with above and below ground utilities. All tree species are selected that are respectful of adjacent hardscape and infrastructure, including sidewalks.
An introduction to the Oakmont Shade Tree Commission*
By Chelsea S. Cooper, Oakmont Resident & OSTC Member
Do you have a favorite tree in Oakmont? Is it the tulip tree at California Avenue and Fifth Street? Or the dawn redwood on Seventh Street? Or the zelkovas along the Boulevard? If your favorite happens to be one of our gentle giants, it may very well be a heritage tree protected by the Oakmont Shade Tree Commission (OSTC) since 1957.
What is a shade tree?
Shade trees primarily provide shade due to their voluminous canopy. Shade trees also give shelter from sunlight and UV rays, while providing an effective, natural reduction of energy use when cooling homes. The introduction of Norway maples in the U.S. has been traced as far back as the mid-1700s; however, since the presence of these maples became naturalized as shade trees, communities have introduced other popular species, such as: oaks, willows, birches, beeches, maples, ashes, and elms.
A History of Stewardship
The original Shade Tree ordinance in Oakmont was ordained and enacted into law 64 years ago. The ordinance grants the Commission “full custody and control of the shade trees and other plant materials (grass excepted) within the rights-of-way of public streets and highways and in all public areas within the corporate limits,” in order to: limit interference with the passage of air and water to the roots; protect trees during building construction (or, utility maintenance); restrict removal of trees; and, establish specifications for trees to be planted.
Good appearance, longevity, freedom from insects and diseases, diameter, limb and overall height, straight trunks are all considered for requested removals and recommendations for new plantings or other variances. Although some language of the codes with the ordinance has changed over the years, the duty of the Commission has remained the same: To protect Oakmont’s biggest and most beautiful shade trees.
The OSTC, in collaboration with volunteers from the community and Cub Scout Pack 137, has endeavored upon a more concerted effort to not just protect our trees but to increase the overall canopy in our neighborhood. Since early 2019, the OSTC has coordinated the planting of 60 new trees, as well as doubling and tripling pruning and stump removals**.
Thoughtful and planned tree planting is essential to keeping Oakmont’s canopy intact and stable. As times have changed, removal of our heritage shade trees tends to call for a smaller, more utility compatible species. So, while one-to-one replacement of a removal is a great first step, we still end up with a net loss of tree canopy and ecosystem services.
OSTC Chairperson, Brian Cooks, said “Our tree canopy is one of the most valuable resources that gives Oakmont its’ charm. Several blocks in town are already becoming exposed and barren as we lose older trees. We must continue to plant new trees to provide the benefits of shade and clean air to current and future residents.”
In 2021 and beyond, the OSTC aims to work with the Council and Borough Administration to: Plant trees to maintain a robust street tree population that benefits current and future residents; water newly planted trees to ensure they transplant successfully; and, to continue to address the high demand for pruning. In just the first two months of the year, over 150 trees have been pruned. Though COVID restrictions have temporarily hampered the Commission’s tree planting events, the OSTC expects to resume community volunteer efforts in late-2021.
*This article is the first in a recurring series, to be published quarterly in local publications.
**To request tree service of any kind, visit the OSTC website at: https://oakmontborough.com/shade-tree-commission/ Download the ‘Tree Service Request Form’ and submit it to OakmontSTC@oakmontborough.com
Oakmont Shade Tree Commission
Chairperson: Brian Crooks, Urban Forester; ISA Certified Arborist
Members: Maryann Brendel, Chelsea Cooper, Phil Fraley, Nicholas Kokales
Shade Trees, § 160-1–160.23. (Ordained 1957 & Adopted/Amended 1969) <https://ecode360.com/OA0228>