In Pottstown, where I live, the nonprofit Trees Inc. raised nearly half a million dollars in the early 1980s to plant more than 1,500 street trees. Thirty years later, the trees have beautifully transformed the appearance of the downtown area and surrounding neighborhoods. Some now soar over two-story houses and shade entire blocks.
But they have also lifted sidewalks. And we've found that the easiest, most cost-effective way to create safe walking surfaces without removing trees is to replace concrete with asphalt.
Two years ago, as a demonstration project, Trees Inc. replaced severely lifted concrete sidewalks around 15 street trees with asphalt. The wells in which the trees grow were also expanded as much as possible, so few roots had to be pruned. The newly poured asphalt was then coated with a permanent epoxy solution pigmented to blend in with the concrete. Today, the asphalt remains in pristine condition and is almost indistinguishable from the concrete.
Meanwhile, the Pottstown Borough Council passed an ordinance allowing asphalt sidewalks to be used in areas where trees are planted. Replacing lifted concrete with asphalt makes sense, but it makes even more sense to avoid concrete sidewalks in the first place.