Trees possibly on the chopping block at Highland Park Reservoir

PITTSBURGH — Concerned Pittsburgh city residents are advocating to keep the trees within the Highland Park Reservoir safe from potential removal.

“The public needs to know this,” said Oakland resident, Jim Reitz.

Reitz told Channel 11 that he and his church group recently went on a tour of the reservoir, and were informed that hundreds of trees are set to be removed.

“I think it would be a terrible thing,” he said.

Channel 11 reached out to various city agencies, learning that the state’s Department of Environmental Protection classifies the reservoir as a dam, which belongs to the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority.

“The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection is concerned about the trees that are on the dam regarding the risk they pose to the dam’s structural integrity,” according to a spokesperson with the Mayor’s Office. Typically, the EPA does not allow trees on or near dams, according to the PWSA.

Representatives from both local agencies told Channel 11 that they are working together, in collaboration with the DEP, to look for alternative solutions.

“That’s very encouraging to me. I just hope they don’t bend too quickly to the fact that there’s a rule somewhere and somebody wants to check a box and say ‘Okay, I took care of that,’” Reitz said.

Other parkgoers told us Wednesday that they would hate to lose the shading the trees provide, and would worry about the impact on wildlife.

Channel 11 contacted the DEP for more information but had not heard back at the time this article was published.

We also reached out to the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy for comment and were sent the following statement, “The City of Pittsburgh has been proactively working with the Commonwealth and the DEP on permitting issues related to the Highland Park Reservoir. No final decisions regarding any type of tree removal have been made and it has been communicated to the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy that the Mayor and the City are firmly committed to minimizing, if not completely preventing tree removals.”

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