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Officials in eastern Berks township discuss steps toward public tree removal project

Hereford Township supervisors are discussing steps toward publicly funding the removal of dangerous ash trees throughout the township.

A public tree removal project was one of several alternatives suggested by members of a resident’s group that opposed a previous township rule requiring property owners to remove dangerous trees from their property or pay to have them taken down.

That rule — put in place to deal with trees killed by the emerald ash borer, an invasive beetle — was repealed by supervisors early in August following months of heavy criticism from residents.

Part of the criticism dealt with officials’ decision to hire an arborist to mark dangerous trees.

Residents claimed the markings decreased their property value and made them liable for accidents involving the trees.

The arborist labeled trees in two of the township’s four quadrants before supervisors paused the marking effort in April in response to residents’ concerns.

Dead ash trees pose a hazard along the 100 block of Township Road in Hereford Township. The invasive emerald ash borer has devastated ash trees in the area. (BILL UHRICH - READING EAGLE)
Dead ash trees pose a hazard along the 100 block of Township Road in Hereford Township. The invasive emerald ash borer has devastated ash trees in the area. (BILL UHRICH – READING EAGLE)

At Tuesday’s meeting, supervisors discussed having Arbor Essence of Montgomery County continue marking trees.

This time, instead of painting a large red “X” on dangerous trees, the trees would be marked virtually in a GPS database maintained by the arborist and the township, and the only trees marked on private property would be those in the township right-of-way, supervisors noted.

The goal, according to the supervisors, is to have an accurate inventory of problem trees so the township can obtain cost estimates for a large-scale removal project.

“We need to have the number of the trees, the size of tree and the species,” Supervisor John Membrino said.

Mary Young and Bob Bolen, both members of the township’s Environmental Advisory Council, said they talked with residents and a major concern was that marking more trees could impose additional liability on property owners or the township.

“If the township might be incurring a liability by identifying these trees, why would we want to expand our inventory of (dangerous) trees and extend our liability?” Bolen said.

Membrino said simply having dead ash trees on a property is a liability whether the tree is marked or not.

“If a tree fell and it hurt someone and they wanted to sue, there’s case study that we have seen that the property owner is negligent,” Supervisor Karla Dexter said.

Dexter said the township has had problems with ash trees falling and injuring people on Conrad Road.

Solicitor Eugene Orlando offered no comment on whether the township or private property owners would be liable for damages from falling trees or whether the additional markings would affect liability.

Supervisors noted they were also waiting to see if residents who opposed the mandated removal would take down ash trees on their own, which some previously said they intended to do.

“I personally think private property owners should be responsible for taking down trees on private property,” Bolan said.

Dexter also said part of the township’s removal strategy could involve having local road crews take down smaller trees.

Young and Bolan also discussed seeking state grants or other sources of funding for removal projects.

Membrino expressed doubt that grant funding could be secured.

“These politicians have no interest in the ash trees, none at all,” Membrino said. “They’ll come and stand in front of a cardboard check for a park…but you don’t get grants for cutting trees down.”

Following the discussion, officials said the plan is to meet with the arborist and put together a proposal for marking trees in the rest of the township.

Source: Berkshire mont

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