by Tana Weingartner
Cincinnati Parks is giving away free trees. The Park Board's Urban Forestry division runs the annual ReLeaf program as an effort to bring residential neighborhoods up to 40% tree canopy coverage.
"You can help the environment, that's what this is really about," says Rocky Merz with Cincinnati Parks. "One tree alone can help control 400 to 1,000 gallons of stormwater runoff. As we saw this spring and into the summer, we've got major stormwater issues here just like we're seeing around the country and this is one way to help mitigate that."
Urban Forestry started handing out trees in the late '80s to provide shade trees for homeowners who either didn't have room for trees on the street tree lawn (that strip of grass between streets and properties), or had overhead utility lines in them.
Nearly 20,000 trees later, the program continues. It's now part of the Taking Root reforestation campaign founded by the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, Green Umbrella, OKI Regional Council of Governments, and the Green Partnership of Greater Cincinnati.
The program has handed out more than 40 species of trees over the years. Options this year include 'Oregon Trail' sugar maple, eastern redbud, 'Emerald City' tuliptree, Okame cherry, dawn redwood and swamp white oak.
Trees, the Parks points out, also help reduce soil erosion, reduce the effects of "urban heat islands," and provide energy-saving shade and beauty.
Merz expects to hand out around 500 trees but says the number could go higher if there's enough demand.
Here's a link to the application form.
The Park Board is especially interested in giving trees to communities with less than 40% tree canopy. Target neighborhoods below that goal include:
Bond Hill (23%)
Camp Washington (8%)
East End (27%)
Lower Price Hill (18%)
Mount Auburn (35%)
Pleasant Ridge (34%)
Walnut Hills (30%)
Cincinnati Parks gets funding for the trees from the Duke Energy Foundation and the Cincinnati Parks Foundation.