Tree programs keep the metro green even after disasters

Tree Bank Foundation’s Tornado Re-Leaf program works to replace trees destroyed by natural disasters. (Tree Bank Foundation / provided)

Tree Bank Foundation’s Tornado Re-Leaf program works to replace trees destroyed by natural disasters. (Tree Bank Foundation / provided)

 

Since 2010, the City of Edmond has given away over 500 trees through its Foster-A-Tree program, which provides free trees to Edmond residents. The program helps the city maintain its tree canopy, and residents benefit from everything from increased property values to a sense of purpose.

“It allows people to plant a tree in their yard and be a part of something that’s improving our community on a grander scale,” said Leigh Martin, urban forester with the City of Edmond and Foster-A-Tree program coordinator.

Edmond’s program is one of many across Oklahoma. Tree Bank Foundation in Oklahoma City works primarily with organizations like Boy Scout troops, churches, schools and city governments. This includes the City of Oklahoma City, which worked with the foundation after receiving grant money to fund tree giveaway programs. The foundation has worked with 67 communities throughout the state since 1987.

Nicki Largent, Tree Bank Foundation executive director, said she has seen interest in tree-planting programs grow significantly just in the four years she has been with the organization. For this year’s Great Tree Giveaway, an annual program that provides trees to Oklahoma communities, the organization received 30 applications — more than any other year — and could only approve 16.

Edmond started Foster-A-Tree as a way to replace trees it had to remove. The city couldn’t always plant a new tree in the same place, but using residents’ homes for planting allowed the city to maintain its overall tree canopy. The program begins in October, and the city plants trees in small groups until it runs out in the spring. The city provides the tree, plants it, stakes it and puts mulch around it. It also provides residents with an aeration bag that makes it easy to water.

Tree Bank Foundation focuses on what are called “Oklahoma proven” trees known to thrive in the state’s climate. The organization primarily uses maple and oak, along with redbud trees whenever they can get them. Edmond seeks species diversity with its program and compiles a list, including species that aren’t commonly planted, for each year’s giveaway.

Benefits of tree planting include increased property values and energy conservation as well as filtering the air and reducing water runoff.

The need is especially crucial in areas that have lost trees due to storms, Largent said, because trees help with storm water runoff management and because soil erosion is a major problem after a tornado hits. Tree Bank Foundation’s Tornado Re-Leaf program was established specifically to replenish trees in areas hit by tornadoes, ice storms and fires.

“You can see the difference immediately, so it’s kind of an immediate gratification that life is coming back here,” Largent said.

Tree Bank Foundation’s program applicants must be located within the city limits of the community in which they’re applying. Edmond Foster-A-Tree program applicants must be within Edmond city limits and must also have frontage on a public street.

Largent encourages anyone who hasn’t considered the role trees play to stop for a moment and notice the trees around them that might have previously blended in with the rest of the landscape.

“Just try to imagine if they weren’t there, what kind of a difference would that make,” Largent said.

Learn more about Edmond’s Foster-A-Tree program at edmondok.com/foster. Learn more about Tree Bank Foundation at thetreebank.org.

 

Print Headline: Fellow foliage, Metro area tree programs grow community engagement and improvement.

Lea Terry

This article was written by an Oklahoma Gazette contributor. To reach an editor, please email jchancellor@okgazette.com with this story's headline in your subject line.

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