THE sight and scent of cherry blossom trees in full bloom during spring has long been a highlight of Helensburgh’s landscape, but now the volunteer organisation set up to protect these natural wonders has issued an urgent appeal for more helpers.

The Helensburgh Tree Conservation Trust (HTCT) was founded in 2002 to maintain the town’s street trees and a 10-year management plan prepared in 2017 identified six key objectives for their preservation.

Included in the vision for the future is raising awareness of the benefits of street trees and, at a time when environmental concerns and the climate crisis are high on the public agenda, trust members are keen to take advantage.

Having joined the National Tree Collections of Scotland in 2016 as the network’s only street trees site, work has been ongoing to identify areas in need of development and replace street trees which are integral to the character of the town.

The colours created by the cherry, apple and pear blossom trees during spring, as well as the birch and elm trees of summer, are admired by residents and visitors alike with the wide grass verges and variety of species previously earning the town the title of ‘Garden City of the Clyde’.

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However, as HTCT director Rolf Krezdorn explains, there is much more to be cherished in Helensburgh’s street trees besides their beauty.

He told the Advertiser: “There are around 2,800 street trees in Helensburgh and about one third will need to be replaced within the next 10-20 years.

“The trust has a limited capacity and limited funds. We try to plant 100 trees per year, but this gives an idea of the challenges we face.

“It is very clear that we have to look for additional resources in terms of our knowledge and funds.

“To do this we have to raise public awareness about the benefits of these street trees. Everybody appreciates them in spring, with the cherry blossoms and so on, but for the rest of the year they don’t pay much attention.

“We want to develop, for the general public but also for the decision makers, a vision which goes beyond the ornamental aspect of street trees.

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“We know that street trees can contribute to noise reduction, air pollution reduction, and they store and sequester carbon.

“What we are doing is more than beautification, it’s more than creating a beautiful environment during spring.”

A survey carried out by the trust last year using an online software programme called iTree estimated that almost a quarter of Helensburgh is covered by tree canopy.

By assessing 600 randomly distributed sample plots and checking to see if they contain trees, the study found that Helensburgh is above the average result from other towns and cities across the UK.

Further research will be conducted into the carbon impact of the trees.

“This figure is quite impressive,” added Rolf.

“This requires further studies but already gives an idea about the potential environmental impact of Helensburgh’s street trees.”

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Among the issues surrounding Helensburgh’s current crop of street trees are a lack of diversification – 45 per cent of the entire population are prunus (cherry) trees, which can be potentially problematic if they catch diseases – and the growing number of mature trees.

Fellow trust director Iain Duncan said: “They give benefits all year round. The street trees are part of the landscape and streetscape but we want to stress all the other advantages of trees, so we need volunteers to support us.

“We have about 250 members who pay £10 a year but that is a small number compared with the population of Helensburgh.

“A lot of the public don’t know that the trees are looked after by a voluntary body: they think the council look after them, which used to be the case until maybe 20 years ago but it’s not been a priority.

“It is important in making Helensburgh an attractive place to live.”

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