January 17, 2012 |

Tree Pittsburgh looking to spread the word about city's urban forest

According to Tree Pittsburgh, one of the most important components of an urban forest master plan is public involvement and input.

The non-profit urban forestry organization is in the process of developing an urban forest master plan for the city with its partners.

To that end, four Tree Lover Community Open Houses were held throughout the city earlier this month: in the West End, Garfield, North Side, and South Side.

Attendees were asked to take a tree survey; share a favorite tree memory on video; pledge to enroll five friends to take the survey and tell a tree story on-line; and volunteer to distribute posters and flyers, and collect surveys and videos.

Volunteers were also urged to involve the community via email, Facebook, and Twitter.

"This is about getting people to spread the word, and engage as many people as possible," said stewardship coordinator Jake Milofsky at the Jan. 5 open house at South Side's Brew House.

But that is only the start of public participation.

During the third week of January, Tree Pittsburgh will host four community planning meetings. The meetings will be an opportunity to learn more about the state of the city's urban forest, share one's thoughts about trees in the community, and meet other community members who care about trees. The dates, times, and locations have yet to be announced.

An urban forest master plan is a road map providing detailed information, recommendations, and resources needed to effectively and proactively manage and grow an urban forest.

It describes a shared vision for the future of the urban forest to inspire and engage residents, business owners, elected officials, and organization in the care and protection of trees.

"There will be recommendations in the plan that city council may choose to vote on," said Mr. Milofsky.

The goal is to release the plan in June.

Tree Pittsburgh is an environmental organization dedicated to enhancing the city's vitality by restoring and protecting city trees.

Founded in 2006, the organization's mission is to be a leader in creating a healthy, attractive and safe urban forest by inspiring and engaging residents to maintain, plant, and protect trees.

(To take the tree survey and tell your tree story, visit: TellUsYourTreeStory.org . For more information on Tree Pittsburgh, and/or its volunteer opportunities, visit: treepittsburgh.org .)

Prospective college students should begin financial aid process now

State Rep. Harry Readshaw, D-Allegheny, is advising high school seniors and their parents the Free Application for Federal Student Aid is now available online for students planning to attend college in the fall.

Information from the FAFSA is used to determine eligibility for federal grants, the Pennsylvania State Grant program, scholarships, reduced-cost federal loans, work-study programs, and many school-based scholarships and financial aid programs. While the deadline to submit the FAFSA for most students seeking a State Grant is May 1, individual schools and scholarship programs often have earlier application deadlines.

"This is the number one action that students and families should take to begin the search for financial assistance to access higher education," Rep. Readshaw said. "Of course, the best course is to get the application filled out and returned as soon as possible so that any questions can be resolved early to ensure that the student's financial needs are met."

Students and families can find more information about the FAFSA, as well as overviews, preparation worksheets and the online application, at www.PHEAA.org/FAFSA. The website also offers a list of information that will be needed in order to submit a complete application.

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