Celebrating Arbor Day

Celebrating Arbor Day

By Mike Barhorst - Contributing columnist

The celebration of Arbor Day is on April 27, despite the fact that spring has arrived later than usual this year. Sidney will once again celebrate the day by planting a tree, done on a rotating basis at one of the community’s schools. This year the tree will be planted at Christian Academy. The species selected is a Northern Red Oak. The Arbor Day ceremony will take place at 2 p.m., and you are certainly invited.

Arbor Day originated in Nebraska City, Nebraska. J. Sterling Morton, considered Arbor Day’s founder, served as Nebraska’s territorial governor and was Grover Cleveland’s Secretary of Agriculture. An estimated one million trees were planted in Nebraska on April 10, 1872, the country’s first Arbor Day. Arbor Day has been celebrated since.

Trees have many benefits. To help residents understand the significance of trees, I want to review why you should consider planting a tree this spring. Trees absorb carbon dioxide (CO2), removing and storing the carbon while releasing the oxygen back into the air. In one year, an acre of mature trees absorbs the amount of CO2 produced when you drive your car 26,000 miles. That same acre of trees can produce the oxygen 18 people need to live each year.

Trees can cool urban environments by as much as 10°F, by shading our homes and streets, breaking up urban “heat islands” and releasing water vapor into the air through their leaves. Three trees placed strategically around a single-family home can cut summer air conditioning needs by up to 50 percent. By reducing the energy demand for cooling our houses, we reduce carbon dioxide and other pollution emissions from power plants.

Trees reduce runoff by breaking rainfall thus allowing the water to flow down the trunk and into the earth below the tree. This prevents stormwater from carrying pollutants into streams, lakes and ultimately the ocean. On hillsides or stream slopes, trees slow runoff and hold soil in place.

Studies have shown that neighborhoods and homes that have an abundance of trees have far less violence than those that are barren. Trees and landscaping have also been shown to help to reduce the level of fear. Trees can mask concrete walls or parking lots, and unsightly views. They muffle sound from nearby streets and freeways, and create an eye-soothing canopy of green. Trees absorb dust and wind and reduce glare.

Studies have shown that patients with views of trees out their windows heal faster and with fewer complications. Children with ADHD show fewer symptoms when they have access to nature. Exposure to trees and nature aids concentration by reducing mental fatigue.

Studies show that the more trees and landscaping a business district has, the more business will flow in. A tree-lined street will also slow traffic — enough to allow the drivers to look at the store fronts instead of whizzing by.

Perhaps most importantly to homeowners, a well-planted property and its surrounding street and neighborhood can raise property values by as much as 15 percent.

Unfortunately, in the past couple of years, we have lost thousands of Ash trees within the city, some well over two hundred years old. On public property alone, the City of Sidney has removed more than 1,500 Ash trees since 2014. We estimate that another 150+ trees have died on city-owned property that have not yet been removed.

If you have determined that planting a tree or two on your property could be a good investment, it is time to determine where you should plant the tree. One of the things that has been taught to those of us participating in the Tree Commission Academy has been to plant the right tree in the right place.

Identify the prospective tree planting location and, if it is on city property, find out what municipal department is in charge of planting and caring for city trees. In the city of Sidney, Street Superintendent Brian Green is one of two Certified Arborists who work for the city. He can be reached at 937-498-8159. Joyce Reier is also a Certified Arborist. She can be reached at 937-498-8117. You can ask either of them what process must be followed to receive permission to plant a tree on city property, including the tree lawn in front of your home.

When choosing a location, keep in mind soil conditions water availability, overhead wires, space available for roots (to avoid upsetting sidewalks or streets) and space available for the tree’s canopy (to avoid interfering with traffic or business signage). Planting the right tree in the right space can help you avoid costly sidewalk repairs every few years.

When selecting the tree you are going to plant, be sure to consider what the tree needs and what the planting site can provide. There are six factors to consider: 1) temperature — trees have a limit to the cold they can endure. Check the hardiness zone before choosing a tree (Sidney is in Zone 6a); 2) moisture — each species can tolerate wet or dry conditions to a different degree; 3) light — “shade tolerance” is the term foresters use to rate the light requirements of each species; 4) pests — every locality has problems with a particular insect or disease. Some trees are more susceptible to certain diseases than others; 5) soil – soil depth, structure, pH and moisture can make the difference between success and failure with a tree. Each species has its preferences; and, 6) air pollutants — chemicals in the air vary with localities; some trees are more tolerant of air pollution than others.

Before you make the final decision on the tree species, other factors should be considered. Is the tree being planted to save energy and provide shade? Is it being planted to beautify the grounds? Is providing wildlife habitat important? Will the tree be part of a windbreak or shelterbelt? Determining why a tree is being planted will help identify the ideal species.

Also know how big it will be at maturity. Will it have “head space” and root area to grow well? Will roots interfere with the sidewalk, patio, or driveway at maturity? Will it block windows or scenic views or tangle with the utility wires when it is mature? These answers will all help eliminate inappropriate species. Finally, keep in mind its shape, its leaves and its impact on the area.

After you have chosen a tree that is suitable for the location, you should have your choice confirmed by one of the City’s arborists, or by the State Forester. The state forester who serves our area is Wendy Van Buren. She can be reached at 513-897-1082.

If you are not ready to plant a tree now, you may want to wait until fall. Last year, Sidney’s Tree Board conducted their first ever tree sale. Although they were told not to expect to sell more than 25 trees in the first year, 300 trees were sold. The members of the Tree Board are already discussing the varieties of trees that will be offered this year, and an announcement of the varieties that will be offered in 2018 will be made soon.

I’ve heard from several of those who purchased trees last year, and am pleased to report that the trees purchased are showing signs of life, albeit a bit later than otherwise would have been the case had Mother Nature not visited us with snowfall through much of April. So, whether you plant a tree this spring or wait until fall, I would encourage you to do your part in helping to make Sidney a better place to live, work, worship and raise a family.

Celebrating Arbor Day

By Mike Barhorst

Contributing columnist

The writer is the mayor of Sidney.

The writer is the mayor of Sidney.