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City Targets Far South in 1,000-Tree Giveaway

Lauren Sega Lauren Sega City Targets Far South in 1,000-Tree Giveaway
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To boost enthusiasm for the Branch Out initiative aimed at planting 300,000 trees by 2020, the City of Columbus is giving away 1,000 trees and compost in partnership with other organizations.

The program started in September of last year with the hopes of replenishing the city’s canopy, much of which was lost to the Emerald Ash Bore and the Asian Long-Horned Beetle. It didn’t take off until spring, though, when the city set the goal of planting 20,000 trees in April.

Right now the Tree-o-Meter sits at just under 20,000, about a third of the number of trees necessary to keep pace. Even counting the year 2020, 50,000 trees would need to be planted annually — more than twice their current rate.

Erin Miller, Environmental Steward for the City of Columbus, said part of the problem is that people who plant new trees aren’t registering the trees with the city, resulting in an inaccurate tree count. Those who do register a tree can get an up to $100 rebate, based on the kind of tree.

Although the city wants more trees in general, it’s specifically targeting certain neighborhoods whose canopies are severely diminished. In this 1,000-tree giveaway, Miller said they’ve been targeting the South side, which has less than 15 percent of urban tree canopy, but they might not be the ones buying the trees.

“We have targeted our education and outreach to the South side, because they do have lower tree canopy in the South side than in a lot of other areas in the city,” she said. “But there’s not a zip code attached to the registration form, just a street address.”

Becky Walcott, from the Far South Area Commission, said residents weren’t too shocked to hear about their withering canopy; many of them lost their trees to the Ash Bore and harsh weather.

“I’ll tell you that we’ve worked pretty hard to get the word out, worked pretty hard to get fliers out and people are very interested. They’re certainly wanting trees,” Walcott said.

A little over 600 trees are already spoken for, but whether Far South residents have claim over them is unknown. Walcott said she isn’t sure why the city wouldn’t plant all 1,000 trees in the Far South, if that’s where the deficit is.

“To be honest our hope is that the far south gets the majority of those trees,” she said.

Registration is ongoing, and pickup is October 22, at the Indian Mound Recreation Center on Parsons Avenue. Each household can take two of the 1,000 trees donated by Kurtz, and each tree comes with compost from SWACO.

For more information visit columbus.gov/branch-out.

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