Honey Locust trees trimmed of all branches await final removal Monday outside University Towers on South Main Street, Wilkes-Barre. About 14 trees – a bit less than half – were removed Monday from a grove in front of the apartment building.Clark Van Orden/The Times Leader
WILKES-BARRE – A decade after surviving the threat of a chainsaw from a previous owner demanding more parking spaces, roughly half the Honey Locust trees shading the lawn outside Wilkes University Towers succumbed to the threat of their own DNA: The species couldn’t thrive when planted so close together.
Workers spent the day first removing branches of at least 14 trees, then lopping the trunks into manageable sizes, thinning the mini-urban forest by about half its numbers, all on the advice of an arborist, Wilkes University spokeswoman Vicki Mayk said.
She provided a brief report submitted to the university by Brown Hill Tree Co. of Meshoppen, which had reviewed the health of the trees.
The report notes the Honey Locust are “a rapidly growing species” that can hit 100 feet and have crowns spreading about 50 feet, but that the crowded condition of the grove is causing lower branches to die off from lack of sun and root systems to compete for limited resources.
Though they could live to 120 years, “the trees will have a shorter lifespan if left in this condition,” the report notes.
It proposes removing about half of the trees – those in poorest condition – and pruning the remaining trees of dead branches. “Their canopy should expand with increased light,” and the remaining trees “should respond favorably.”
The trees shade a rare green tract in a stretch of concrete and brick along South Main Street, a common resting ground for college students in warm weather and frequent host to children from a nearby pre-school center.
The space won a Pride of Place award from the Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Commerce in 2000, when the apartment building housed mostly senior residents and was known as Ten East South.
But the city parking authority started evicting tenants from parking spaces in the neighboring Park & Lock South garage to make room for workers expected to use the Call Center across the street, and the management of Ten East South threatened to hack down all 35 Honey Locusts for needed parking space.
The Call Center went bust, and Wilkes ended up buying it and the apartment building, rechristening it University Towers in 2006. The Honey Locust trees stood unscathed ever since, until the arborist recommendations.