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Tree replanting advocates get 229 signatures

The Newberry Community Partnership, advocating for 51 trees to be replanted before milling and repaving takes place on West Fourth Street, has collected hundreds of signatures supporting its cause.

The members spoke Thursday to City Council, which by consensus backed the partnership’s bid to try to convince the state Department of Transportation officials to add tree replanting back into the design blueprints before reconstruction takes place.

“We can’t wait until the reconstruction takes place,” said Margaret Tupper, a Newberry resident.

The area in question is about seven-tenths-of-a-mile long, she said.

It was where 51 trees were removed in preparation for utility relocation, milling and paving work.

Sadly, it has become one of the “baldest spots in the city,” according to Councilman Don Noviello.

Michele Frey, of the partnership and a resident who had one of those trees removed outside her house, said the partnership has researched applicable city, state and federal laws.

“We ask council to instruct PennDOT to replace all 51 trees that were removed,” she said. No PennDOT representatives were at the meeting.

The petition will be sent to Gov. Tom Wolf, Leslie Richards, transportation secretary, and Sandra Tosca, the district executive, Frey said.

The department has said there is not enough room between the sidewalk and curb. In some cases, the trees were causing the sidewalk to heave upward, according to Joseph Gerardi, city codes administration.

“We have received misinformation and passive opposition from PennDOT,” said Alannah Gabriel, of the partnership. She added how the blueprint leaves West Fourth Street “treeless.”

Newberry residents Bernie and Bernice Dincher have said they are willing to donate trees for replanting, according to the organization members.

“It’s not fair to them to pay for and to donate the trees when PennDOT took them out,” Councilwoman Bonnie Katz said.

Robert Cross, of the partnership, said trees not only provide purity to the air, they also cut down on crime.

The grassroots advocacy to get the trees back before the repaving and sidewalk installation was admired by council leadership.

“You are helping us to prepare a plan of action as we move forward,” Councilwoman Liz Miele said. The city is engaged in negotiations with PennDOT on a number of projects, not the least a proposed West Third Street reconstruction and the continuing East Third Street/Old City Gateway Revitalization.

The city has been able to obtain grants and get the volunteer and staff assistance each spring to plant up to 75 trees each year, helping to replenish the “urban forest.”

Gerry Fausnaught, who just received a special nomination and election onto council to fill the vacancy of Jonathan Williamson, said Dr. Kenneth Cooper, the father of the city tree planting, a retired obstetrician who lived within eyesight of Brandon Park, would be proud.

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