(WJET/WFXP/YourErie.com) — Residents in the West Bayfront neighborhood of Erie can sign up to get a new street tree in front of their homes.
Those trees will be planted in the city-owned easement between the sidewalk and the street. And while it’s on city property, the resident can choose which tree and they will be required to care for the tree.
It’s a program being offered by Our West Bayfront. Tree requests are taken on a rolling application basis, and already 14 trees have been planted through the program. In the first round of applications, residents could choose between three variations of crabapple trees.
“We chose crabapple trees because they fit under powerlines,” said Marissa Litzenberg, project manager at Our West Bayfront. “The reason we have a rolling application is because not everybody wants a fruiting or flowering tree. So we hold onto their request and try to find the right funding program to get the tree that they want.”
Not every tree request will come to fruition. The mighty oak tree certainly is a sight to see, but it might not be appropriate for a city street. Our West Bayfront has teamed up with the city of Erie and Penn State to ensure that the trees are appropriate for Erie. Nonnative trees also won’t make the cut.
“We don’t want to plant trees that will turn into humongous trees and tear up the sidewalks — we want to plant trees that will maintain safety of the streets and sidewalks,” Litzenberg said. “Nonnative species like the Japanese maple and the Japanese blossom, we also think they’re beautiful but we understand they’re not appropriate for our community streets.”
When a resident submits an application for a free street tree through Our West Bayfront, they can ask for a specific tree. If that tree isn’t included within the city’s list, Our West Bayfront will work with the resident to find an appropriate substitute.
“I know it can be a longer process, but that’s because we’re checking all of our boxes and making sure everything works before we commit to a planting a tree,” Litzenberg said.
These free trees are for street easements. They can’t be planted in backyards or in personal gardens. The goal is for the trees to enhance the neighborhood’s health and aesthetics. Trees provide shade, they provide habitat for birds, and a tree-lined neighborhood just looks good.
Our West Bayfront is offering the trees to residents within the area between West 12th Street and the Bayfront Connector, and Sassafras to the Bayfront Connector. To apply for a free street tree, go online or email Litzenberg at email@example.com.
The trees currently are provided through Tree Pennsylvania, a group that serves the commonwealth. The trees are provided to Our West Bayfront at cost, and Our West Bayfront can match the cost with in-kind donated labor. Our West Bayfront covers that with volunteer hours at LEAF (the Lake Erie Arboretum at Frontier Park), purchasing the stakes that are used to plant the trees, and Litzenberg’s staff time.