April 16, 2021
Tree loss in Churchill Borough will have adverse effects on health, community life, and water runoff. This subject needs closer attention in light of the drastic destruction of trees required for the Hillwood distribution center for Amazon.
There is a separate discussion on the Turtle Creek watershed and the effect it will have on the community.
A noted by Ken Balkey in the public meetings, the borough continues to have a net loss of canopy in normal times, even with the extensive work he and the committee have done to generate new plantings.
With a loss of 30 plus acres of wetlands, there will not be sufficient space on the property to compensate for the estimated 1000 old-growth trees that will be bulldozed.
The reason for the loss is the insistence by Hillwood to create the mega distribution center footprint that necessitates a leveling of the hill and the use of fill and retaining walls for the amount of flat space a distribution center with a footprint of 639,000 sf requires.
It is estimated that to return even part of the canopy loss to full growth will require in excess of 50 years, 2 ½ generations in the future.
This would be the same, even if the 4 ½ levels (not stories, levels that vary from 23 to 40 feet in height each) were reduced to just a single level 639,000 sf distribution center. That is just one reason why a distribution center (fulfillment as Amazon likes to call it) is the wrong business for the former Westinghouse R&D campus.
If it were built on the existing footprint, which is really quite large although not on a single flat plane, I think just about everyone could agree there is ample justification to support the project, even with the additional traffic.
Useful links at Penn State and on the Churchill Borough website.
The extensive tree canopy of Churchill is a distinct characteristic of the community and a core attraction for most of the residents.
If you want to learn more about maintaining and supporting the trees, you can find many useful seminars, articles, videos, and references through the Penn State Extension website.
Clean the Air: Trees produce oxygen that we breathe. In addition, trees remove air pollution by lowering air temperature, by releasing water into the atmosphere, and by retaining particulates. By reducing the need for heating and cooling systems, trees also reduce emissions that contribute to atmospheric carbon dioxide and the greenhouse effect.
Produce Economic Benefits: Trees add value to retail areas by making them more attractive places for shopping. Trees along streets and on private property increase property values. Studies conducted in two communities in New York and Connecticut showed that the presence of trees increased the selling price of homes by as much as 15 percent (see illustration g2).
The mature tree loss with the Hillwood proposal will require 2 ½ generations to even partially compensate for the loss. We listed a link to data on both the borough website and Penn State for background information relating the trees in residential communities. Since the trees are so much identified with Churchill Borough, you might find it interesting to explore the subject in more detail.