TreeVitalize - Millvale

TreeVitalize Pittsburgh, a tree planting initiative managed by the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, has planted 500 new trees and constructed 2 bioswales within the borough of Millvale, completed in the fall of 2013.

Partnering with the borough, the series of tree plantings included street trees along the business district and restoration plantings primarily in the borough’s Riverfront Park, The Millvale TreeVitalize Project has also planted on participating private properties and constructed two bioswales on the property of Mt. Alvernia, Sisters of St. Francis, as demonstration projects in 2013. One of the bioswales is located along Hawthrone Road and is approximately 400 feet long! This large bioswale intercepts water from an 11-acre tributary area.

Parking lot bioswale at Mt. Alvernia in Millvale. Photo credit: Matthew Little

We have planted trees in the Borough of Millvale and many Allegheny County communities because of the numerous economic, environmental, and health benefits that trees provide. For example:

  • One healthy tree can absorb 1,400 gallons of storm water runoff annually; a tree growing in enhanced bioswales can absorb over 2,000 gallons of stormwater annually, providing approximately $400 per year in sewer overflow reduction benefits.
  • Trees can reduce energy costs for homes and businesses by 25 percent.
  • Trees improve habitat for wildlife.
  • Sales in tree-shaded business districts are an average of 11 percent higher.
  • Mature trees can speed home sales by 4 to 6 weeks and increase sales prices.
  • Trees reduce smog and air pollution and contribute to lower rates of respiratory ailments such as asthma.

Why Trees are Good for Millvale

Millvale is impacted by flooding, due to runoff from storms and snow melt. The borough is located within the Girtys Run Watershed, whose stream is also negatively impacted from the runoff and non-point source pollution-everything on the ground washed into the stream such as litter, auto fluids, and pet waste. Millvale is particularly affected by runoff and subsequent flooding due to significant residential and commercial development upstream. The Millvale TreeVitalize Project is helping address these problems through innovative green infrastructure approaches, including the planting of trees and the installation of bioswales in the borough. 

 TreeVitalize trees and WPC community flower garden along Ohio Blvd. in Millvale.


WPC staff, with the help of volunteers and the borough, will provide ongoing maintenance of the trees including watering, weeding and mulching of the trees. There is significant interest in trees and other green infrastructure and community projects among Millvale residents, staff and council. The borough has a strong track record of community engagement in these types of projects. TreeVitalize Pittsburgh has extensive experience utilizing volunteers for tree planting projects, which has resulted in an exceptionally high success rate.

Since we have found that citizen stewardship is so critical to the health of the trees, volunteers will be needed for ongoing care of the trees as well as the plantings. The swales will also be maintained by WPC staff for at least two years. The borough will provide long-term maintenance of both the trees and swales. WPC will provide training and support to borough staff to ensure there is a smooth transition and that proper maintenance continues.

Trees as a Cost-Effective Solution

Increasing the tree canopy is one of several solutions for excessive stormwater runoff and its associated pollution. Although it is not a standalone solution, healthy trees can manage a significant amount of stormwater, especially when larger tree pits are included. Currently, typical tree-planting wells in the Borough of Millvale measure 2 –feet-by-2-feet or 3-feet-by-3-feet. There is ample evidence that these small pits are inadequate for proper root growth and development. The minimum 30 square-foot standard developed by TreeVitalize Pittsburgh was based on the minimum space recommended for mature trees given the tight constraints of city streets.

Considering the long-term impact on stormwater management, human health, energy use reduction, habitat improvement, community beautification, and positive economic impacts for business and residential districts, planting trees is an economical use of funds. Given the fact that ALCOSAN estimates that increasing its capacity to treat sewage from 250 million gallons daily to 600 million gallons daily will cost $4 billion to $6 billion over the next 20 years, these green infrastructure practices are comparatively cost-effective.

The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy is a nonprofit, tax-exempt charitable organization under Section 501(c)(3)
of the Internal Revenue Code, and 100% of your donation is tax-deductable as allowed by law.