Expanding and Preserving Marietta’s Tree Canopy

Written by Judith Kennedy and Linda Ross

The Marietta Shade Tree Commission has recently taken on a new challenge: That is preserving the health of our River Trail Forest. While working to add more trees to our historic streets, the Commission also recognizes the urgency of River Trail Forest maintenance and management.

The River Trail Forest contains flood plain trees. Flood plain trees are trees that can tolerate water immersion and if maintained, absorb storm waters and have the capability of protecting Marietta from flooding and winds. They also provide a shade canopy, lowering temperatures, and making recreational and educational activities more enjoyable.

During the January “Our Forest” volunteer day, invasive vines were cut from dozens of trees. Cutting the vines at the trunk kills the vines in the crown and reduces the weight in the canopy. This helps the trees better withstand damage from storms and keeps the canopy healthy and intact. Also, the vines will no longer compete with the tree for light, moisture, and nutrients. This will allow the tree to grow healthier and produce more seeds. More seeds falling to the ground increase the chance that they will root, resulting in improved natural regeneration of our beloved floodplain forest. Volunteers are needed to continue with the vine cutting. Work sessions will be 10:00 to 12:00 the last Saturday of March and April. Additionally, ground level invasive species choke out seedlings. The Marietta Shade Tree Commission is working to engage professional help to deal with these invasive intruders.

Free Trees

Marietta used to maintain beautiful tree lined streets (witness all the empty tree wells here) and the Shade Tree Commission would love to see this happen again. Old postcards show many young trees planted near the more mature ones up and down Market Street. With ever-growing knowledge about what species have root systems that WILL NOT TEAR UP SIDEWALKS, planting mistakes of the past can be avoided. The Borough Office has a list of recommended street trees.

Marietta’s Shade Tree Commission, in partnership with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Ten Million Trees program, will be offering free trees and shrubs to borough residents during Marietta Day. There will be several species recommended as having the ideal properties to be street trees and some recommended for planting in yards. These trees will be small but an advantage of planting seedlings on sidewalks is that their root systems grow to conform to the conditions. These trees could fit into many of the empty tree wells in town. And while the Tree Commission would love to see larger trees planted throughout town, the thought is that young trees are better than no trees! Assistance and instructions for planting will be provided.

The Lancaster City Council recently passed an action plan to develop the city’s urban forest and hired an urban forester to implement an ambitious initiative of increasing Lancaster’s tree canopy significantly. Even though many streets like West Chestnut are already lined with beautiful mature specimens that compliment all the historic homes, other less green areas would benefit greatly from rows of shady trees.

Like so many other very walkable and environmentally proactive cities, Lancaster recognizes the significance of trees’ role in pulling pollutants from the air and water, providing shade which reduces the use of air conditioning, and capturing rainwater thus preventing it from going straight to storm drains (storm water management). The latter benefit is especially significant here in Marietta.

Through social media, and information posted at the Borough Office, The Marietta Shade Tree Commission will keep the public updated on the above initiatives as well as other projects and events now in the planning stages.