Trees Inc. formed to beautify, revitalize Pottstown

Trees Inc., a 501-c3 non-profit organization, was incorporated in 1983 to raise $500,000 to plant and maintain street trees in Pottstown, Pennsylvania. The Pottstown Mercury newspaper led a five-year fundraising campaign, which enjoyed widespread community support. Trees Inc. is a volunteer organization, with no paid staff, overhead, or administrative expenses. All work is contracted out. For more information, call Tom Hylton, president, at 610-323-6837 or email him at thomashylton@comcast.net.

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In hard times, trees symbolize hope for a better future

For a century, up to the 1970s, Pottstown was a prosperous manufacturing town that produced auto parts, plastics, tires, castings, clothing, shoe polish, silk thread, and steel. Such famous structures as the Golden Gate Bridge, the locks for the Panama Canal, and the Empire State and Chrysler buildings were all fabricated in Pottstown.

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The closure of Bethlehem Steel in 1975, with the loss of 1,000 jobs, was the first of a wave of closures that decimated Pottstown's industrial base and left behind few good-paying jobs.

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Mercury photographer Tom Kelly documented Pottstown's forlorn streets in the spring of 1983.

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Tree-planting a cost-effective way to improve the community

In the fall of 1983, a group of Pottstown business and civic leaders organized Trees Inc. They believed a tree-planting campaign could help boost community morale and improve the the appearance of the town. Former Borough Manager Robert McKinney agreed to be president of the group. Mercury writer Tom Hylton was legman. Montgomery County got the campaign underway with a $45,000 donation

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Businesses were next...

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Followed by churches and civic groups...

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... Pottstown High School students helped out.

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After the fundraising and tree planting campaign ended in 1986, the Trees Inc. board gradually downsized from 15 members at its peak to three today. Starting in the early 1990s, Trees Inc. shifted its focus to maintain as many of Pottstown's street trees as possible, regardless of who planted them.

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We watered young ones during the summer and trimmed big trees in the winter.

Here are some before and after photos:

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Before

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After

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Before

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10 years later

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20 years later

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An industrial plant is screened by callery pear trees.

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Callery pears in bloom enhance a low-income neighborhood.

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Trees planted in 1986 provide a welcoming entryway into Pottstown from the west along High Street.

An inventory of Pottstown's street trees, first conducted by Trees Inc. in 1990 and updated annually, shows the annual value of the borough's 3,116 shade trees, as calculated by i-Tree, is more than $300,000.