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A greener West Green Street proposed


Two Westminster women hope to enlist their neighbors in a project to line West Green Street with shade trees and flowering dogwoods.

The idea started with West Green resident Robin Kable, who looked at her street one day several months ago and visualized the tall trees that formed a canopy over the street where she lived as a little girl.

Ms. Kable and neighbor Ruth Gray asked the Westminster Tree Commission for help to plant trees on West Green Street between Bond Street and Old New Windsor Road. The planting also could include parts of one or two intersecting streets.

Overhead power lines and on-street parking make it impossible to replicate the tree canopy of Ms. Kable's childhood. But if property owners agree to share the cost and to accept trees on their lawns or in the grass strips between sidewalk and street, West Green Street could gain approximately 60 trees.

The trees won't be small, slender "whips," Ms. Gray said. "It will be something that immediately will look like a tree. It will have a visual impact on the street."

The greening of West Green Street will cost an estimated $10,000 to $15,000. Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. will provide $5,000 for the project from its annual contribution to a Pennsylvania State University research study on trees that co-exist well with power lines and thrive in urban environments.

The Penn State study requires residents to accept limits on what kinds of trees can be planted.

"We start with species that we know won't interfere with power lines," said Dr. Henry D. Gerhold, professor of forest genetics at Penn State, who is directing the study. The study began in 1987 and includes more than 60 communities where varieties of those species have been planted.

Researchers collect information about tree growth, disease and insect resistance, and monitor how well the trees handle drought and pollution.

The study also involves education for tree owners. Dr. Gerhold said some people initially dislike the idea of a small tree to accommodate power lines, but some change their minds when they learn more about the tree.

Tall trees under utility lines require extensive pruning, which "very often results in a disfigured tree and substantial cost," Dr. Gerhold said.

Each West Green Street resident who accepts a tree will be asked to contribute $75, half its cost. The tree commission may add $5,000 in city money to the project, depending on the final cost. The cost will vary with the trees chosen, because some are more expensive than others, City Planner Katrina L. Tucker explained.

Tree Commission Chairman Joseph Barley, who also is a BGE forester, said he wants to see "something out on Green Street that people are happy with, that they like to see."

Most of the dogwoods are destined for planting on the north side of the street under power lines. The trees can't be planted in the space between the sidewalk and street because of on-street parking, so the sponsors will ask owners to put the dogwoods in their lawns, Ms. Tucker said.

On the south side of the street, "We can plant trees like elms or maples that have taller forms," Ms. Tucker said. Medium-sized shade trees may be planted in the strip between sidewalk and street, and larger trees will go on lawns.

Tree commission members suggested planting part of a cluster on West Green Street and part on an intersecting street, such as Anchor Street, to meet the Penn State study requirement that at least 20 trees must be in clusters of four to six.

Ms. Gray said her informal survey of neighbors generated some questions, but no opposition to the idea. She said she and Ms. Kable plan to send letters to neighbors providing detailed information about the project.

The sponsors hope to plant the trees in the fall.

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