Downtown W-B gets 20 new trees

i Nov 11th 2020

By Mary Therese Biebel, Wilkes-Barre Times Leader

“Whenever the teachers would give everybody a little tree, I’d ask the other kids if they were really going to plant theirs,” Zarqua Ansari said, remembering ecology projects from her childhood in Mountain Top. “If they weren’t I’d take them and plant them.”

Now Ansari is a student at Wilkes University, preparing for a career in medicine and still a fan of those oxygen-providing, climate-cooling trees. She was among several of Professor Ken Klemow’s biology students who were happy on Monday afternoon to help plant some trees in downtown Wilkes-Barre.

“Wilkes has gone above and beyond to make our campus beautiful for the students,” said Lexi Gaetano, another biology major from Mountain Top, explaining she wanted other people to experience similar beauty on West Northampton Street, where she helped plant four Miyabei “State Street” Maple tree.

The planting, which was a project of the Diamond City Partnership, began Monday afternoon and continued Tuesday morning.

DCP executive director Larry Newman was delighted to watch — and pitch in with a shovel — as city workers, aided by volunteers from both Wilkes University and King’s College, planted 20 trees in all.

Funded by a “Bare Root Tree Grant” from the Pennsylvania Urban and Community Forestry Council, the trees include 11 Freeman “Autumn Blaze” Maples, planted on North Franklin and West Union streets near the Kirby Health Center and five “Skyline” Honey Locust trees, planted in front of the Highmark Blue Cross/Blue Shield and Union buildings along with the four Miyabei State Street Maples.

“We are continually working to improve Downtown Wilkes-Barre’s pedestrian experience. Downtown has traditionally had a robust shade tree canopy, but during the past few years, many trees have fallen victim to disease and decline,” Newman said, specifically mentioning that several large ash trees had been attacked by an insect, the emerald ash borer.

“This marks the start of a multi-year effort to replace what’s been lost,” Newman said, adding that as the trees mature they will provide benefits people can easily see such as the “curb appeal” factor as well as benefits people don’t always think about, such as absorbing stormwater.

“Unfortunately, replacing urban street trees isn’t an inexpensive or simple process: stumps must be removed, utilities and pavers must be navigated, and soil must be replenished,” Newman wrote in a news release. “That’s why collaboration is so critical – and we’re grateful to everyone who’s helped to make this planting possible.

“We simply could not do this without partners like Mayor (George) Brown, Dave Lewis, and Wilkes-Barre DPW, or Rob Franchelli and Franchelli Enterprises,” Newman said. “I also want to thank Highmark Blue Cross/Blue Shield, the Kirby Health Center, the Union Building, and Wilkes University for their generous cooperation; Kelly Gibbons of King’s College, Ken Klemow of Wilkes University, and Sam Troy of the Wilkes-Barre Shade Tree Commission for organizing volunteers; and Penn State Urban Forester Vinnie Cotrone for all of his guidance.”