Applying to TreeVitalize Pittsburgh

TreeVitalize Pittsburgh currently supports street tree plantings within Allegheny County and the City of Pittsburgh by providing forestry expertise, trees, supplies, and planting event coordination for neighborhood groups. TreeVitalize Pittsburgh also accepts applications for community parks and trails, and for restoration plantings.

The TreeVitalize Pittsburgh program’s street tree plantings help the Conservancy and its partners meet the goals of the City of Pittsburgh’s 10-year Street Tree Management Plan. The plan is based on tree inventory data collected in 2014 and helps guide our work to maintain and increase street tree populations. With the help of volunteers and partners, we do this work through new plantings, replacing trees that have been removed because of age or health reasons, and filling vacant tree planting sites.

Submitting an Application

TreeVitalize Pittsburgh

TreeVitalize Pittsburgh applications are being accepted now for the spring 2025 tree planting season. To apply for TreeVitalize Pittsburgh, you must be an Allegheny County resident.

Contact Alicia Wehrle at awehrle@paconserve.org or 412-586-2386 no later than October 1, 2024, to begin the application process. Alicia can provide more in-depth information about the application process and will send the digital application to you.

After this initial contact, required site visits will be scheduled. Final applications are due December 1, 2024.

Interested in Planting Trees, but Live Outside of Allegheny County?

We encourage all residents from across the region to plant more trees! If you live outside of Allegheny County and wish to apply for trees for your community, please contact the statewide TreeVitalize grant program, managed by TreePennsylvania, for more information and to receive an application.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I get trees planted in my town?

Your community must have a shade tree commission or environmental committee that encompasses tree ordinances. You should consult a borough council or municipal engineer, or someone with authority in the municipality. At that point, follow the instructions above to apply to TreeVitalize.

Won’t trees lift or destroy sidewalks?

Trees can lift sidewalks, especially certain kinds of trees and in certain infrastructure situations. But not every tree is equal…we can choose trees with less aggressive root systems. The trees we plant now tend to be slower-growing trees and with slower growing roots systems, such as non-fruiting ginkgos and hophornbeam.

There are reasons so many historic trees lift sidewalks. Tree farmers have to grow a tree for 6 to 8 years to get a monetary return, so nurseries grew faster growing trees, which you often see in older neighborhoods. Also, sometimes, a tree was planted in a pit that was too small for its roots. Or sometimes, property owners have work done around the tree that makes the tree pit smaller.

There are new, better ways to build sidewalks, particularly in the subbase—a four-inch slab of concrete with porous gravel is an invitation for roots to grow. Infrastructure needs to be built in a tree-friendly way.

Won’t trees get in the way of power lines?

WPC and TreeVitalize only plant utility-compatible trees on community streets. That means that the trees we plant will not grow tall enough to be topped by the power company. 

In 2019, foresters from WPC, Pittsburgh City Forestry, Tree Pittsburgh and Penn State Extension met with utility arborists from Duquesne Light to update our lists of utility-compatible tree species for our planting projects.

Tree topping for line clearance will continue, but as we plant more and more compatible species, such as redbud, flowering cherry, crabapple, etc., the frequency of tree topping will decline over time. The goal of power companies when pruning is to restore or keep power on in a neighborhood. We are pleased to partner with them for less invasive and destructive tree cutting practices.

How do you decide what species of trees to plant?

We have a saying: “Right tree, right place.” A lot of thought goes into how we choose what trees go where. We assess every single spot and look at the environs. For example, more visibility is needed near intersections. Or, in a nice open park setting, we can plant trees with roots that spread.

Other things we consider include, but are not limited to:
*Are there overhead lines?
*Where are the underground lines, such as gas lines?
*Will the trees will be planted on a high-traffic street that gets a lot of salt?
*What type of site prep is needed?
*What trees are already there? We don’t want to limit diversity.

Why don’t you plant smaller trees that are easier to plant?

There is actually a size mandate for the City of Pittsburgh. The minimum acceptable size is 2″ caliper bald and burlapped, which is what we plant. Smaller trees don’t survive as well: They are vandalized more easily, or are not seen as well by drivers parking cars and delivery trucks. They succumb more quickly to winter salting and dog urine.

Bigger trees are less likely to be damaged after planting. They are heavy, but three to four people lift well together and we instruct them carefully. We don’t require anyone to lift; only volunteers who feel comfortable do any lifting, and staff do a lot of lifting, too. 

Why don’t you plant fruit trees?

Although the idea sounds good, and food security is indeed a problem for many families, growing edible fruit trees along streets is not feasible for many reasons. The big reason is fruits are considered to be a nuisance at minimum by most people, and usually are a deal breaker for having a tree at all. Trees are legally or illegally removed for lesser reasons than messy fruit. Fruit trees can cause slippery sidewalks, damage to cars, increased animals and insects, and staining to carpets after walking on fruits.

Also, fruit trees just don’t grow well along streets, which are very stressful locations for any plant. Winter salting, dog urine, delivery trucks, poor soil or lack of soil, contaminants, exhaust and a hotter microclimate just don’t work for many trees, but especially fruit trees, which are considered finicky on a good day in an orchard setting.

And finally, we really don’t want people to eat food grown in that setting. The tree takes up chemicals and pollutants into its system that would then be present in the fruit.

Tree Pittsburgh has a Giving Grove program, working with fruit production in urban areas, including more acceptable places for growing, such as school grounds or through the city vacant lot program. And of course, anyone with space can plant a fruit tree in their own yard!

Who waters the trees?

All people who request trees to be planted need to water them from late May to early September for the first two summers. For planting sites that are not as well connected to an adjacent resident or community group, staff or contractors can sometimes water.

How do we care for municipal-owned trees that are from past WPC-led plantings?

Please visit our TreeVitalize Resources webpage for instructions on tree care and a list of other resources.

Find tips on seasonal tree care.