When my family moved to Johnstown, a compelling reason for our move was the Jim Mayer Riverswalk Trail, and a pedestrian path that runs along the Stonycreek.
Despite being located adjacent to Johnstown’s urban surroundings, this trail provides a beautiful reprieve from the city streets. It is a greenspace along the river that is typically flush with birds, butterflies, rabbits and deer.
The trail gets heavy use from bikers and walkers, and hosts raspberries, milkweed and flowers that provide habitat for animals.
This is why I was so shocked to see giant swathes of dead trees and herbaceous plants along the path. Penelec recently treated its electric right of way, a process it conducts every 10 years, and it took the cheap and easy route.
Instead of manually cutting back problem foliage, Penelec sprayed herbicides across one entire trailside and patches of the other. This means a steep hillside is in danger of being destabilized, since the living plants that helped keep the soil in place have been killed. Flowers that sustained butterflies are dead.
In addition, the trail is now an eyesore for Johnstown residents. Penelec should cease indiscriminate herbicide use on public lands and wildlife corridors, and work with the recreation authority to manage important public space and habitat in a responsible way.
Penelec should also restore the habitat it ruined with plantings of native flowers and trees.
As a resident of Johnstown, and a professor of wildlife biology, I am extremely disappointed with the disregard Penelec exhibited for Johnstown.
Company’s actions are not acceptable
Penelec has broadcast an herbicide along the Jim Mayer Riverswalk Trail on the Stonycreek River that has indiscriminately destroyed all vegetation around its power lines. Some time and effort at selective cutting would have not only protected the beauty, but sustained the environmental and biological integrity of this space.
It is awful. It is ugly. It is unacceptable.
In an effort to revitalize its economy and improve our quality of life, Johnstown is hoping to brand itself as a haven for outdoor activities by promoting the natural beauty of its hiking and biking trails.
When questioned by WJAC about its indiscriminate vegetation kill, Penelec replied that it was concerned only with delivering power and would continue the broadcast spray.
That is not the answer we should expect from a company that purports itself to be a partner to its community – our community.
Penelec should be supporting our regional efforts at revitalization instead of undermining them.
Watch WJAC’s story online to see Penelec’s tone deaf and unacceptable response. Write a letter to Penelec demanding better corporate citizenship.
Find the MoveOn.org petition online and sign it.
Expect more and demand better from Penelec. Prevent this from happening again. Thanks are due to WJAC and good citizen Christine Dahlin for bringing Penelec’s destructive behavior into the light.
Paul D. Newman
The following is a response from Penelec:
Clearing necessary to maintain service
Because the transmission lines within our service areas are increasingly being used as a highway for long-distance power delivery, the task of maintaining these corridors has become more challenging. This additional electrical load from other suppliers to customers outside our service area puts added stress on our system. This means we have to maintain a clearance that is appropriate for the way the system is now being used.
As a result, we have revised our vegetation-management practices to ensure, to the extent possible, that our lines do not contact nearby trees. Every five years, or more frequently, if needed, professional vegetation-management crews will clear the trees located within our high-voltage transmission line corridors to help maintain reliable electric service. The work is dictated by the width of the transmission corridors, which vary depending on the voltage of the line and the easement rights that were negotiated with the property owners prior to the lines being constructed.
For residential distribution lines, trees are a leading cause of power outages. To maintain safe and reliable service, our trained experts patrol neighborhoods looking for trees that could cause problems. If a tree needs to be pruned, the property owner is notified either in person or through a door card before work is started. As part of the process, we require that our forestry contractors follow industry best practices to ensure the health of the tree.
For more information about our vegetation management, visit www.firstenergycorp.com/trees.