By Noell Wolfgram Evans
It’s been estimated that before Ohio was settled, over 95 percent of what would become the Buckeye State was covered with trees. Of course the state, and its capital city, feature a very different terrain today. Columbus though has a goal to change all that.
The city of Columbus is currently doing its part to bring back the green to the skyline with the Branch Out Columbus program. Its’ goal is to see 300,000 trees planted in the city by the year 2020.
To help accomplish this, the city will be giving out free trees to residents on Sept. 30. Residents can visit columbus.gov/branchout to register for their free trees. Up to two trees are available for each household.
On Sept. 30, trees will be available for pickup at the Shot Tower at Fort Hayes between 9 and 11 a.m. Dappled willows, Rosebuds, and Red maples are all part of this tree offering. Residents can still sign up to receive free red maples, but the dappled willows and rosebuds are currently being wait-listed.
Branch Out Columbus was started by the city’s’ office of sustainability. The program was inspired by an April 2015 report entitled An Assessment of Urban Tree Canopy in the City of Columbus, Ohio. That study estimated that only 22 percent of Columbus contains an urban tree canopy (UTC).
Also indicated within the report were threats to trees that are part of the UTC. These threats include damage from weather and invasive insects such as the emerald ash borer and the Asian long-horned beetle.
To counteract the negative effects of these threats, as well as to build upon the positive benefits of a UTC, the city has embarked on a number of initiatives through Branch Out Columbus along with other city departments. The report discusses a number of benefits to having a robust UTC including, “Generally speaking, less tree cover not only leads to more runoff, but more pollution of various types as well.”
The city of Columbus Department of Urban Forestry is one of the other city agencies doing their part to build the UTC. Across the past several years, they have planted 2,000 trees inside of the city each year. While this does add some new trees, many of the trees are replacements as they remove an estimated 1,500 trees each year as well.
Whether you plant a tree from the free tree community giveaway or one that you’ve gotten on your own, Branch Out Columbus strongly encourages you to call the city of Columbus at 614-645-8276 to ensure that there are no underground utilities crossing the areas you will be planting in.
Branch Out Columbus is a partnership between the city, SWACO, and Kurtz Brothers.