The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

March 27, 2014

Pulitzer winner: Plant big trees for a healthy community

By Karen Blackledge
The Danville News

— MAHONING TWP. — Plant trees that are going to get big to absorb storm water, Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Thomas Hylton told members of the Danville Business Alliance.

Speaking Wednesday night during the alliance’s annual meeting in the Pine Barn Inn, he said large trees also dramatically reduce the need for air conditioning.

Two of the most cost-effective measures for boroughs are having light colored surfaces and planting lots of deciduous trees, he said.

“The bigger the tree, the more storm water and carbon dioxide absorbed and more air cooled beneath it,” said the Pottstown resident and president of Save Our Land, Save Our Towns Inc.

Hylton’s editorials advocating preservation of farmland and open space in southeastern Pennsylvania won a Pulitzer Prize in 1990.

A journalist for 22 years with the Pottstown Mercury, he has spoken hundreds of times throughout the U.S.

Hylton is an author, school board member, community organizer and a leading advocate in Pennsylvania land use planning and community building.

He said this is his second trip to Danville which he described as a beautiful town.

In Pottstown, the owner of an old garage donated his property to Hylton’s Trees Inc. which removed the impervious surface and replaced it with 35 trees.

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg saw the benefits of trees as  cost-effective and instituted a program to have 1 million trees planted by 2017, he said.

Philadelphia expects to plant 300,000 trees by 2015, he said.

“A parking lot is an opportunity for a park,” said Hylton.

Trees Inc. raised $500,000 and made an “enormous difference in 20 years” in Pottstown by planting trees, he said.

“Our hospital put in trees where there is dead space and you can’t park. There are tremendous opportunities for beauty, air quality and storm water management,” he said.

Regarding complaints about tree roots lifting up sidewalks, he said those problems aren’t that difficult to deal with. “Asphalt is good to use and compatible with tree roots,” he said showing photographs of asphalt sidewalks in Paris and in other cities.

“The cost is about 15 percent to remediate sidewalks,” a small price considering the benefit of trees, he said.

In discussing zoning, Hylton said Pottstown declared as much of the town as it could to be an historic area.

“We encourage people to go to the planning commission to come up with a project that is good for you and good for the town,” he said.

“I am proudest of our zoning ordinance that allows for a lot of discretion,” he said.

“Design is so important especially for towns like Danville,” he said.

Danville’s plan to occupy and renovate upper stories in the downtown “is a tremendous asset. You want people living downtown,” he said.

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