ERIE — Saul Franko and his family are readying their shovels to make an addition to their yard: a half-price tree.
They’ve already picked a location for the new tree — between the sidewalk and the street — and they’re just waiting to get their discount certificate in the mail.
“Who doesn’t love a tree?” asked Franko.
When he learned March 28 the town was running a program to split the cost of a tree for 150 residents in Erie, Franko was quick to sign up.
“I have three or four trees in the back yard, so three or four in the front yard will help balance out the situation,” he said, chuckling.
Franko said he and his family live in a newer part of Erie that doesn’t have many trees, and he and his wife, both Erie natives, want to change that.
“I think it’s great,” he said. “If the town is willing to share the cost, I’m willing to pay the other 50 percent to help make the community look better.”
Erie’s cost-sharing tree program comes in response to leaders’ efforts to find the best way to spend half a million dollars in the town’s tree fund.
The town will pay half the cost of trees costing up to $300 for the first 150 people who sign up. By March 29, 100 people had already lined up for the program, said town spokesman Fred Diehl.
Town leaders also have allotted $35,000 for homeowners associations to plant 200 trees in Erie neighborhoods.
“Trees add so much to a town, a neighborhood and a community,” said Erie resident Lois Joyce, who is a founding member of the town’s tree board.
The projects are two of three recently approved by town leaders to spend the tree fund money, she said.
“Trees are going to beautify the town in any location,” she added.
The third branch of the project will fund planting of 50 new trees in town-maintained parks, facilities and open space areas.
Mayor Andrew Moore said the initiative will help Erie continue living up to its Tree City USA designation and to its own logo of a tree.
“Any time you go into communities where there are large trees, it makes an environment people want to be in,” Moore said, who has 20 trees planted around his home in Erie.
“When you put trees on your property, it really changes the way it feels,” he said.
Additionally, Moore said Erie residents will see the value from the water conservation and shade that trees bring to a community.
Since 1995, developers have been paying $100 into the tree fund for each house they build, but for a long time the town lacked a plan to spend the money, Moore said.
Joyce said she was upset by that.
“For years, I knew there was all of this money accumulating, but nothing happened,” she said.
She praised Moore for pushing to allow the tree board to find a way to spend the money.
“This is really good,” she said. “We’ll be able to immediately see the benefits trees make in a neighborhood.”
And Joyce is pleased that people who might not be able to afford trees in their yard could have the chance to plant on their property.
Joyce said the new trees will give the town even more to celebrate during its Arbor Day festivities April 30.
Diehl said the 150 people who get tree certificates should receive them in a week or so, and they must be redeemed within a year.
Amanda Arthur can be reached at 303-684-5215, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.