PECO Agrees to Pause Tree Trimming... for now
Street trees are part of what makes Garden Court special and are essential to the neighborhood's historic character, but they provide much more than aesthetic benefit; street trees are urban infrastructure that do important work to generate environmental, social, and economic benefits. A healthy and robust tree canopy cools our sidewalks and homes, manages stormwater, improves air quality, sequesters carbon, improves mental health, and even reduces aggressive driving. Philadelphia's tree canopy has been shrinking for decades (Garden Court is among the last pockets of fully canopy in West Philly) and the Department of Parks and Recreation is seeking to stop, and reverse that trend.
Community voices halted destruction of our tree canopy.
On Monday, August 30th, PECO's tree trimming contractor, Asplundh, sent several trucks and crews to Garden Court to begin clearing utility lines. GCCA Boards members observed significant damage being done, began contacting elected officials (Councilperson Gauthier and State Representative Krajewski) and encouraged neighbors to do the same. By lunchtime, Councilperson Gauthier was able to get PECO to agree to pause their work, and start a dialog with GCCA and UCGreen to determine a better path forward. Thank you to everybody who made their voice heard to stop the damage!
GCCA and UCGreen in Discussion with PECO
Councilperson Gauthier's office has convened meetings with The Department of Parks and Recreation, PECO, and Asplundh to seek resolution to the crisis and start a conversation about better utility maintenance in the future. GCCA three principal concerns:
PECO's communication with residents (on-street postings the afternoon before and mailings that never arrived) is woefully inadequate;
The type of pruning conducted often stresses the trees and results in very panicked re-growth (lots of small "water sprouts" from the point at which a larger limb was cut), which poses more threat to the utility and starts a vicious cycle of more aggressive pruning.
Continuing to maintain utility line clearance in the the conventional manner will incrementally but inevitably lead to the destruction of Philadelphia's tree canopy.
Despite the stated objective of protecting the utility infrastructure, there are multiple instances in which PECO has trimmed healthy trees while letting dead or diseased trees remain tangled in wires.
One week of utility line clearance can undo decades, if not a century, of growth and once the happens, it is too late; that is why GCCA is taking this issue so seriously. The slides below The slides below were shared with PECO to illustrate GCCA's concerns. PECO has made a commitment not to proceed with the planned work until an agreement is reached. We are grateful for the Councilperson's support of this prerequisite.
PECO does intend to resume their work.
As of this post there is no date scheduled for resumption of work, but PECO has said that they intend to conduct tree trimming on the following sections of streets in and around Garden Court: 50th between Catherine and Sansom; Locust between 51st and Farragut; Small section on St. Bernard between Pine and Spruce; Small section on Osage between 50th and 49th Hazel between 50th and 47th; 48th between Walton and Locust; 47th between Baltimore and Pine; Larchwood between 48th and 43rd; Small section on Melville south of Larchwood; 46th between Cedar and Pine; 43rd between Larchwood and Woodland.
The map below summarizes this list:
What YOU can do to help
It is important for decision-makers to know that GCCA speaks not only for a couple of its board members, but for our broader community. GCCA will amplify your voice; here are several ways that you can help protect our tree canopy:
Call or email PECO to tell them, as a neighbor and rate-payer, that our tree canopy is important to you. PECO has asked that residents contact Jeffrey Watson, Senior Program Manager for Vegetation Management: firstname.lastname@example.org / 267-533-1634
Call or email the Department of Parks Recreation, tell them that Philadelphia's tree canopy is important to you, and urge them to take back control of our street trees from utility companies that do not prioritize our trees as infrastructure. Kathryn Ott Lovell, Commissioner - email@example.com / 215-683-3666
Email firstname.lastname@example.org to receive updates and calls to action, and get involved with greening efforts, more broadly, in our neighborhood.
Take pictures of trees on the blocks in question in their healthy, untrimmed condition. If PECO ultimately proceeds with trimming, we'll ask you to share and these pictures will help assess any damage done. It is also important for PECO to know that this community is ready to hold them accountable.
This issue is evolving day-to-day and week-to-week. We will do our best to post important updates as they arise. Stay tuned.