Courthouse lawn to turn over new leaf

MIFFLINTOWN – A small group of volunteers is ready to turn over a new leaf in Juniata County.

During a public board meeting held Tuesday in Mifflintown, the Juniata County Commissioners approved a tentative plan submitted by the Tree Committee, organized in an effort to plant new trees on the courthouse lawn.

The effort came in response to last year’s removal of the old oak trees from the property. After storm damage forced the removal of the corner tree in early June 2012, changing wind and weather patterns made the remaining trees a safety issue. They were cut down in late July.

A new site plan provided by retired architect Alan Chack shows eight trees standing along the perimeter of the lawn. Two large Swamp White Oak trees rest on the two corners where Lemon Street, Main Street and Bridge Street intersect. The proposal states that the species is a long-lived native tree that reaches 50 to 60 feet at maturity with an equal spread. The oaks tolerate urban environments well and keep with the historical choice of planting oak trees around the courthouse, Chack said.

The site plan also includes two Eastern Redbud trees standing between the oaks along Main Street. Redbuds are expected to reach 25 to 30 feet in height with an equal spread. A brief description of the species provided by the committee states that the tree, with reddish-purple buds, is very hardy and has an open structure.

Two smaller, flowering trees are also set to be placed on each side of Lemon and Bridge Streets. The committee provided a list of five options including Serviceberry, Cornelian Cherry, Carolina Silverbell, Crape Myrtle and Seven Sons trees.

Chack said there is historical value in replacing the trees, but also cited practical reasons. He said the construction of the new bridge has reduced travel by the courthouse, making the stairs and lawn a good place to host community activities or concerts. According to information provided by the committee, the trees will provide shade to the public, as well as reduce air and noise pollution.

The proposed design includes trees with an open structure, he said, and they will take 30 to 40 years to fully develop. This provides the “best of both worlds” to the public, who expressed concern over the removal of the original shade trees but also appreciated a more open view of the courthouse, Chack explained. The variety selected will provide color, texture, flowers and seasonal interest to the courthouse area, the plan states.

The plan is set to be funded in full by a $2,000 gift pledged by Ellen and Alan Chack.

Maggie Shafferman, owner at Hunters Run Nursery in Port Royal and member of the Tree Committee, said the trees will be about 10 feet high and a few inches in diameter when planted. The flowering trees are usually grown in containers and can be transplanted at different times throughout the year, but swamp oak trees must be planted in spring for the best chance of a successful transplant, she said.

“I think we support the concept presented here,” said Commissioner Jeffrey Zimmerman.

However, the board agreed to discuss the plan in full with the county solicitor for a final OK before moving forward.

Considering the timeliness of the transplant period for oak trees, the board approved the plan pending detailed review by the solicitor.

Also during the meeting, the commissioners:

Reviewed the Juniata County Sheriff Department’s April 2013 monthly report, submitted by Thomas Lyter, sheriff.

Reviewed the treasurer’s April 2013 monthly report, submitted by Sandra King, treasurer.

Reviewed the April 2013 Juniata County Children and Youth Statistical Report, submitted by Penni Abrams, director.

Approved the Medical Assistance Transportation Program report for the quarter ending March 31, submitted by Jenaya L. Mellinger, Call-A-Ride service director of finance.

Approved the Report of Personnel Transactions for Non-State Employees for Penni L. Abram, submitted by Juniata County Children and Youth Services.

Approved tax exonerations for Walker Township as per material provided.

Approved checks Nos. 37,474 to 37,521 in the amount of $83,283.50.