State College

College Township may consider ordinance to protect historic trees

After the public outcry for a historic tree felled in Lemont, Township Council agreed Thursday that an ordinance could be crafted that would protect such trees in the future.

The issue was spurred June 30 when a large tree off Shady Drive in Lemont, estimated to be “well over 200 years old,” township Manager Adam Brumbaugh said, was cut down by property owners.

According to Brumbaugh, the property owners, identified as Soasoas Partnership, brought an arborist in to evaluate the tree in 2009. At the time, the tree was determined to be “in pretty bad shape,” he said.

Township Council then asked State College borough arborist Alan Sam to evaluate the tree as well, he said. Sam said on June 30 that he determined the tree to be “70 percent compromised.”

In July of that same year, the township made an offer of $35,000 to purchase the property, Brumbaugh said. The offer was refused the next day. The tree continued to sit on the property until that fateful June day.

Ron Smith, of the Lemont Village Association, said one of the bylaws of the LVA is to maintain a community effort to preserve historical buildings, but it would like to be able to preserve historical trees too.

“I think it’s a shame,” Smith said, “ and I think council needs to do some work to have a tree ordinance that will preserve historic trees.”

Lemont resident Jackie Bonomo said it’s important that natural historical features are preserved as well as the historic buildings.

“Anything that has lived that long and survived all the things we threw around it and at it has a place in our culture,” she said, asking for an ordinance that respects the land owner, but also the natural heritage of the area.

LVA Chairwoman Sue Smith, speaking as an individual, she said, pointed out other trees in the Centre Region that are equally as old, saying the property owners spend money to take care of them. She indicated that a model ordinance had been sent to the township by the Centre County Historical Society that could form the basis for a tree-saving township ordinance.

“It’s a model that seems very reasonable,” she said. “It seems doable and needs to be done soon, because this could happen again quickly.”

Council Chairman Eric Bernier said he would like to see action in the future to protect trees and could take the sample ordinance into consideration. Councilwoman Carla Stilson agreed, suggesting council look at what other communities are doing to protect their own natural history.

Brumbaugh said, under council’s direction, staff could develop sequential steps to crafting an ordinance, including developing parameters to qualify trees as historic as well as inventorying the trees in the township.

“In the next couple of months, we can have something for council to consider,” he said.

Brumbaugh confirmed the township is in possession of the plaque that accompanied the tree on Shady Drive recognizing it by the National Arborist Foundation in 1976. The township is working on determining who the plaque ultimately belongs to.