Under the Canopy

Redbud trees lined up next to a road with the title "Under the Canopy, Mt Lebanon Loves Trees


rom very early on, Mt. Lebanon has been pretty infatuated with trees. If you haven’t heard the story, we got our name back in the 1850s, when the Rev. Joseph Clokey (we named a street after him) brought a couple of Cedar of Lebanon trees from a visit to the Middle East and planted them on his property on Bower Hill. The focal point of our municipal logo is an abstract of a Cedar of Lebanon silhouette.

In 2007, we made it official: We achieved Tree City USA status from the Arbor Day Foundation. A decade later, ArbNet, an international organization of tree professionals, recognized Mt. Lebanon with a Level 1 Arboretum status. In order to get that accreditation, we needed to identify at least 25 different species of tree. We found 30, and we’re always on the lookout for more.

We love trees. They’re all over our parks. We line our streets with them. If one of our trees in front of your house isn’t doing well, we’ll heal it, or we’ll plant a new one. We even have trees for sale.

Municipal trees

All told, we have about 12,000 street trees and about 10,000 more in our parks and traffic islands.  We are planning to spend $592,240 this year on taking care of them.

Trees fall under the province of the public works department, which has a three-person forestry crew responsible for planting, pruning, monitoring tree health  and removing dead or diseased trees in the parks and along the municipal traffic islands and “tree lawns,” the strip of grass between the sidewalks and the streets.

Three men planting a tree, one with a shovel. Construction machines in the background.
Mt. Lebanon’s three-person forestry crew is responsible for maintaining more than 22,000 trees. Photo by Ken Lager

Mt. Lebanon plants its trees in the fall, when cooler weather means they don’t need as much water, and still-warm soil allows for some growth before winter sets in.  We purchase the trees from vendors and store them in the public works yard on Cedar Boulevard, organized by species.

The crew plants mostly lilacs and hedge maples, but have also been branching out (sorry) with a some different species, said Public Works Superintendent Dan Kirk. That cache includes white oaks, Kentucky coffee trees, lindens and ivory silks.

“Some trees are designated to be planted under the power lines, as the canopy won’t grow as high and won’t interfere with those wires,” Kirk said. Other considerations are environmental factors, such as soil and weather conditions and a tree’s resistance to road salt, and the possibility of the tree becoming a safety hazard by obstructing the view of drivers and pedestrians.

In addition to planting and pruning, the forestry crew plans to treat about 550 ash trees to stop the spread of the emerald ash borer, an invasive insect from Asia that has decimated the country’s ash trees. The department has budgeted $5,000 for ash borer treatment.

Tree service requests make up about half of all of public works requests for service, but the forestry crew is not 100 percent dedicated to trees. The foresters are also snowplow drivers, leaf collectors, street and curb repairers and all of the other things that constitute the daily operations of the department. In peak tree season, Mt. Lebanon will spend about $60,000 on outside contractors to take care of some of the backlog of service requests, which involve trimming trees that can only be pruned during their dormant season, when the forestry crew is often busy with other projects.

If a municipal tree in front of your house dies on the tree lawn or in the 10-foot right-of-way from the sidewalk, the municipality will replace it for free. If you don’t have a tree in front of your house but would like one, you may purchase one and have it planted for a total cost of $155.  To request a tree, call 412-343-3403 or make a service request at mylebo.mtlebanon.org.

If you notice a municipal tree that needs attention, call or contact through mylebo to initiate a service request. For emergencies such as fallen trees or limbs blocking streets or sidewalks, call 911. If a tree limb falls on electrical lines, contact Duquesne Light at 412-393-7000.

Trees split by a pathway in the bird park.
Mt. Lebanon has been recognized as an arboretum by ArbNet, an international organization of tree professionals. The entire municipality is considered part of the arboretum, which has 30 species of trees (and counting). View the list of trees here.


In 2017, the Mt. Lebanon Parks Advisory Board worked with the public works department to secure status as a Level 1 Arboretum with ArbNet, an organization of tree professionals that serves to award accreditation to communities that develop an arboretum. Requirements for the accreditation dovetail with much of the Tree City standards—a governing body, employees or volunteers to service the arboretum– along with an overall arboretum plan and at least 25 species of woody plants.

The entire municipality is defined as the arboretum.  In  2017, project volunteers identified the 30 types of trees in Mt. Lebanon. To learn more about the species of trees in the municipality and to get expert advice on the type of trees to plant and to avoid,  click on www.mtlebanon.org/2346/More-Resources.

Not Just a Pretty Face

Yeah, they look good, but what have trees done for you lately?

Trees reduce stormwater runoff by retaining the rainfall in their canopies and releasing it into the air. Tree roots and leaf litter increase the permeability of the surrounding soil and make it easier to absorb and store excess water. They can also absorb pollutants, keeping them out of the water supply.

Trees can mitigate climate change. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, studies have shown that shade trees can reduce the effects of urban heat islands. Heat islands are concentrations of buildings, roads and other infrastructure that absorb and retain heat at a higher level than less developed areas. Shade trees can cool buildings, which means less demand for air conditioning in summer, which means less greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.

Still not enough? How about this: A 2010 study in the Journal of Landscape and Urban Planning showed that having street trees boosted the sale price of homes in the Portland, Oregon, area by an average of $8,870 and knocked almost two days off the home’s time on the market. What’s not to love?

Young girls raising a "tree city" FlagTree City

Mt. Lebanon has been recognized by the Arbor Day Foundation as a Tree City USA since 2007. In order to achieve this status, the municipality has to meet four standards:

Have a board or department responsible for the upkeep of all municipal trees

Enact a tree care ordinance

Conduct a community forestry program that spends about $2 per capita (we are at about $18 this year)

Celebrate Arbor Day with a ceremony and proclamation.

Every Arbor Day, the municipality partners with the Mt. Lebanon School District to plan an Arbor Day observance. The event rotates among all of the district’s seven elementary schools. Lincoln will host a virtual celebration this month. The pre-recorded ceremony will be available for viewing at 2:45 p.m., Friday, April 30, at www.mtlsd.org.

Photos by George Mendel