Pittsburgh, Pa. – Jan. 19 – The sidewalks and streets of downtown Pittsburgh’s business district will be treated with a tree-friendly de-icing alternative to rock salt this winter thanks to a cooperative purchase made through the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy (WPC).

WPC partnered with the Cultural Trust, PNC Bank and the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership (PDP) to purchase 21 tons of magnesium chloride, an alternative de-icer to rock salt or sodium chloride, to be used this winter. The final cost was reduced by 69 percent through the cooperative purchase and totaled $6,200.

“These partners make major contributions to the central business district and recognize that trees and other greening efforts make significant contributions to the quality of life downtown,” said Jeff Bergman, WPC’s director of community forestry and TreeVitalize Pittsburgh. “They are also large property owners with many trees under their care.”

Trees located in downtown Pittsburgh are a particularly sensitive population due to harsher conditions, such as higher concentrations of air pollution, litter, vehicular and foot traffic, pet use, and damage from construction and building maintenance activities. However, Bergman says that sidewalk and road salting is the most prominent problem affecting street trees.

“Rock salt is the most commonly used de-icer on the market,” explains Bergman. “It destroys tree roots, obstructs soil quality and raises pH levels, ultimately killing a tree. Magnesium chloride is a more tree-friendly alternative if it is applied correctly.”

TreeVitalize Pittsburgh, a joint project of Allegheny County, the City of Pittsburgh, Pa. Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Tree Pittsburgh and WPC, has planted 400 of the almost 1,000 street trees in downtown Pittsburgh and completed other greening efforts since 2008. With support from the Colcom and Laurel foundations, WPC also brings hundreds of hanging flower baskets and planters to the central business district each year.

“We hope that the success of this cooperative effort and purchase will encourage property owners and businesses to work together and commit to protecting trees across Pittsburgh and throughout our region,” said Bergman.

WPC encourages all home and business owners to protect their trees from unfavorable winter conditions. WPC recommends mulching in the fall, as this practice helps insulate tree roots and lessens the amount of salt penetrating the soil. During the winter months, property owners should cover their trees and shrubs and be sure to follow the application instructions on any de-icer (for example, only one teaspoon is needed per square foot when using rock salt). And once spring comes, tree pits should be flushed with water to clear excess salt.


About the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy:
The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy (WPC) enhances the region’s quality of life by protecting and restoring exceptional places. A private nonprofit conservation organization founded in 1932, WPC has helped to establish ten state parks, conserved more than 252,000 acres of natural lands and protected or restored more than 3,000 miles of rivers and streams. The Conservancy owns and operates Fallingwater, which symbolizes people living in harmony with nature. In addition, WPC enriches our region’s cities and towns through 130 community gardens and other green spaces that are planted with the help of about 12,000 volunteers. The work of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy is accomplished through the support of more than 10,000 members. For more information, visit WaterLandLife.org.

Media contact:
Kristen Blevins
Communications Specialist