Throwing Shade on Marietta

Written by Jack and Trisha Ries
If you look at some very old photos of Marietta, you may notice something different. Yes, there’s a trolley rail down the middle of the street, and people are dressed in old-timey, yet quite dapper attire, and there’s a coal wagon being pulled by a team of draft horses, but that’s not what we’re talking about. Look closely at the sides of the streets, and you’ll notice hundreds of young trees. Those trees eventually grew to provide shade for pedestrians, habitats for songbirds, and a beautiful streetscape in our little town. Since the founding of the borough over 200 years ago, many of those trees have been cleared out to make room for new construction, or because they tore up the sidewalks, or because they grew too wild and became obstacles and obstructions to motorists. And of course, many of them just plain old died.
Well, here’s something you may not be aware of: Marietta has a Shade Tree Commission who, using knowledge and science that we didn’t have available in 1812, are intelligently and safely directing the planting of shade trees on public property in the borough in an attempt to restore our streetscape to its former beauty, without the trees becoming a nuisance or hinderance to modern life. We sat down with Bill Dalzell, who sits on the Marietta Shade Tree Commission (STC), to get a better idea of just what this group is all about.
How long has the STC been around, and what is its purpose? 
“It was created by a borough ordinance in 2019. The purpose for its being is to make a positive difference in the borough by re-establishing a robust tree canopy, which can greatly aid in public infrastructure by improving property values and increasing energy efficiency by reducing surface temperatures.
What responsibilities does the STC have?
The STC advises and guides the Borough Council on decisions and policies regarding shade, energy efficiency, and developing floodplain management plans with regards to forestry that will absorb water rather than let it rise into the borough. They are also aiding the borough with traffic calming planning, as roadside trees create the illusion of a narrower roadway, which subconsciously triggers motorists to drive slower.
Is the STC affiliated with the local government or Borough Council?
Yes, it is an official subcommittee of the Borough Council.
The STC obviously doesn’t have jurisdiction over all trees in the borough, but what trees do fall under its authority?
The scope of the STC’s authority is limited, but not specific. They essentially deal only with trees that are along the public sidewalks and streets in the borough.
Are there any often-overlooked rules/regulations that you would like to make borough residents aware of at this time?
Residents should know that if they would like to cut down a tree that is along the public sidewalks or roadways in the borough, they may need to obtain a permit, to ensure safe and proper removal of the tree. There is a specific regulation that determines which trees, within so many feet of a thoroughfare, must be permitted for removal. A quick call to the borough office will determine whether a permit is required.
Does the STC provide services to the public, and what matters should residents contact the STC regarding?
The STC is happy to advise residents of whether or not trees can be cut down, how they must be trimmed if they overhang the roadway or sidewalk, or even to give advice on new plantings, as they have extensive knowledge in the best applications for specific tree species, as well as knowledge of which trees could become problematic depending on the planting location.
Are there any big projects or plans coming up in the near future?
There will be a census of trees happening in the borough, to see if we have enough shade trees to mitigate flooding, maximize energy efficiency (a house in the shade stays cooler and therefore runs the air conditioning less), and don’t have any trees that could become future problems or hazards. To this effect, the STC also gave out some 350 free trees to residents on Marietta Day.
Who can serve on the STC and how would one go about becoming a member?
Any borough resident can serve on the STC, but all members of the subcommittee must be appointed by the Borough Council. Openings will be posted on the Borough Facebook page and the STC Facebook page.
What is the best way for a resident to contact the STC?
Residents wishing to contact the STC may do so by contacting the Borough Office, or by direct message on the STC Facebook page.
And finally, just because I can’t do a completely serious article, if you had to pick the best tree to push Taylor Swift out of, which one would it be?
Probably a cherry tree. It’s low enough that she probably wouldn’t get hurt.
With all apologies to TayTay and all the Swifties out there, that’s about it from us. So when you’re driving down Market street and notice new young trees being planted along the road, remember who is behind it. These men and women work hard to help make Marietta a beautiful and safe place for all of us to live, and I for one am very grateful. So, until next time, sit back, relax, and plant a shade tree (with the proper permissions, of course).
“He who plants a tree, plants a hope.” -Lucy Larcom