Squirrel Hill Resident to Receive Award for Tree Stewardship
By Linda Ryan
When it comes to keeping city trees alive and well in Pittsburgh’s 90 neighborhoods and five regional parks, Martha “Mardi” Isler has been a dedicated tree ambassador. The ability to combine a passion for greenspace with the science of tree preservation has earned Mardi the 2016 Root Award.
This award will be presented at Tree Pittsburgh’s 10th at the Fairmont Hotel. The Root Ball is a fundraising event and will also recognize 7 researchers from the U.S. Forest Service. Mardi is a founding board member of Tree Pittsburgh and has chaired the Pittsburgh Shade Tree Commission since its inception. She feels fortunate to have the support and collaboration of Tree Pittsburgh, a nonprofit which permits donated funds to keep these projects (and trees) active and growing.
By educating residents and business owners on the work needed to maintain treelined streets, these two organizations emphasize the benefits of keeping our city parks and neighborhoods filled with healthy trees along with a longterm plan to sustain new growth.
Mardi is part of a tree leadership group that is convened by the Western PA Conservancy, Tree Pittsburgh Executive Danielle Crumrine, and our City Forester Lisa Ceoffe. Arborists, along with state and county officials, complete this group. An example of their work is TreeVitalize Pittsburgh, a partnership with the Western PA Conservancy and the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. Since 2008, there have been 20,000 new trees planted including five Cherry trees on Murray Avenue near the Sixth Presbyterian Church and four Elms on the property of Shaar Torah Congregation.
Mardi is a 32 year resident of Squirrel Hill and has collaborated with the past four mayors. In fact, it was near the end of Tom Murphy’s administration when Mardi recognized a gaping absence of trees in an area being developed. She brought it to attention of Mayor Murphy who appointed Mardi to chair the Pittsburgh Shade Tree Commission. When she is not working on tree advocacy, Mardi enjoys gardening and spending time with husband Bill, their son James and daughter-in-law Erin and granddaughter Lilly. Mardi answered questions about her work for SHM.
Congrats on receiving the Root Award. How do you feel about being a “tree ambassador”?
It’s an honor that I need to share with so many others who were at the beginning of this Tree Pittsburgh journey, beginning with the Pittsburgh Shade Tree Commissioners. A vote was decided to establish Friends of the Pittsburgh Urban Forest in order to have a nonprofit entity able to accept funding support for tree projects. It is with their help and support that we have planted more than 25,000 tree. I like the term “tree ambassador” as it applies to so many advocates.
Sometimes being “green” isn’t always popular. How do you maintain your mission in the face of opposition?
Those of us who volunteer with the Squirrel Hill Coalition and Coalition staff members do run into some who are opposed to trees in front of their properties because they drop leaves in the fall. We try to explain that raking a few leaves is a small price to pay for the health benefits (trees help clean the air by absorbing pollutants). Trees also lower the heat island effect from streets and parking lots and lower our energy bills. Trees help with stormwater runoff and reduce soil erosion. Trees enhance the aesthetics of our neighborhoods, and provide shade for our recreational activities. A first impression of our businesses is important for attracting shoppers; a treelined shaded and landscaped business district is more welcoming and appealing. I could go on!
The public is welcomed to get involved. Information about Tree Tender and Standup for Trees classes can be found at www.treepittsburgh.org. There are also mulching parties, pruning workshops and tree planting events.
By Linda Ryan