‘He plants trees to benefit another generation’

When I was young, there were two large elm trees behind our home. They were majestic trees with trunks so large that as children, it was easy to hide behind them. Then came the Dutch elm disease in the 1950s, and I still remember well when the trees became infected and died. Even more, I remember the day the trees were cut down and counting the rings. Although years have blurred the exact number, I do remember that the trees were more than two centuries old.

The biggest lesson learned from the devastation of Dutch elm disease is the importance of having a variety of trees along streets, in parks, and in home landscapes so that no disease or pest that may arrive can kill a large proportion of the trees. In the 19th century, the American elm was the most popular tree to plant. In fact, in many municipalities, the streets were lined with only elms and were shaded in summer by a cathedral-like ceiling of their branches. By the 20th century when Dutch elm disease spread to the United States, it was able to mow down elm after elm through their grafted root systems and the help of the elm bark beetle.

The elm trees comprised a large percentage of the trees in this area, and the effects of the disease were devastating. While many are too young to remember the towering elm trees, much more recently readers have experienced the loss of the several varieties of ash trees — devastation caused by the emerald ash borer. As a result, our area has experienced the loss of another 15 percent of our trees. In Tawawa Park alone, over 1,000 trees have been lost to the disease, several of them more than a century old.

Much of the city’s urban forestry budget has been consumed by paying contractors to remove the trees too large for city crews to cut. As a result, the $50,000 grant received from the Dayton Power and Light Company last year provided a needed boost to our financial resources, and enabled the city to plant trees both along the street and in our parks. In addition, we have had others step forward and plant trees, including Dayton area resident Brent Devitt, who planted trees in several communities including Sidney as part of his Trecycle campaign earlier this year.

Thus, Sidney’s Tree Board, under the able leadership of Chair Ann Asher, was excited when they learned that there was an opportunity for good quality trees to be offered to residents at a reasonable price. Readers may recall that Tree Board Member Anne Sharp and I are both currently taking Tree Commission Academy classes.

State Forester Wendi VanBuren, who teaches classes in the academy, consistently offers opportunities to do more to promote urban forestry within our communities. A recent opportunity involved a tree sale being conducted in Cincinnati. After a bit of investigation, the folks in Cincinnati were kind enough to suggest that rather than drive to Cincinnati to pick up trees from their sale that we simply hold our own sale.

Once the groundwork was laid, Sidney’s Tree Board members, who in addition to Ann Asher and Anne Sharp, include Vice Chair Mike Jannides and members Brandi Thompson and Ross Moore, endorsed the idea. The board announced that they would be offering six different varieties of trees this year — red oak, American beech, norway spruce, tulip poplar, redbud, and swamp white oak.

The species were selected because they are all easily grown in our area. Each tree will come in a five-gallon container, be delivered to the City Service Center, and be available for pickup on Saturday, Oct. 28 from 9 a.m. until noon.

As you decide which variety you might want to purchase, I’ll offer an endorsement for each variety – the Red Oak tolerates most soils, grows quickly and adapts well in an urban environment. It has a brilliant red color in the fall and will grow to a height of 60 to 75 feet. When delivered, the young tree will be 5 to 6 feet in height. It will cost just $30.

The Swamp White Oak tolerates wet soils but is drought tolerant and has shiny, two-tone leaves. It will grow to a height of 50 to 80 feet. It too, will be 5 to 6 feet in height when you pick it up for planting, and it too, will cost just $30.

The American Beech requires well drained soil, needs at least six hours of direct sunlight every day, but is tolerant of urban pollution. It will grow to a mature height of 50 to 70 feet, but when delivered, will be between 3 and 4 feet in height. Each tree will cost $35.

The Norway Spruce needs direct sunlight, grows well in most well-drained and clay soils, and has some drought tolerance. It will grow to a height of 40 to 60 feet, but when delivered, will be just 3 to 4 feet tall. It too will cost $35 per tree.

The Tulip Poplar blooms in May and June with tulip shaped flowers, has yellow leaves in the fall, and needs direct sunlight. It will grow to a mature height of 70 to 90 feet. When delivered, the tree will be between 5 and 6 feet in height, and is $30.

The Redbud has showy pink flowers in the spring, prefers partial shade, and has yellow leaves in the fall. It grows to a mature height of 20 to 30 feet, but when delivered, will be 5 to 6 feet tall. It too, will cost $30 per tree.

As mentioned previously, the young trees will come in five gallon containers. The tree board specifically ordered that size because they realized that five gallon containers would be easiest for homeowners to move and plant in their yards. Although the trees are grown by Woody Nursery in Indiana and are Grade A trees, neither the city nor the nursery is guaranteeing the trees since once they leave our control, we have no way of knowing the care the person receiving the tree is providing them.

Order forms are available online at www.sidneyoh.com, or can be picked up at the reception desk at City Hall, the service center, Shelby Public Transit, the Senior Center, The Spot, and Amos Memorial Public Library. The deadline for ordering trees is Sept. 15 — less than a week from now!

Sidney first earned designation as a Tree City, USA in 1989, and has continually met the standards each year since. As I noted earlier the loss of trees due to disease has been devastating. Hopefully through programs like this, we can begin to replace some of the losses we have experienced.

I would point out that none of these trees will be suitable for planting in the tree lawn. They can only be planted in your yard. In addition, I would strongly urge you to call 8-1-1 prior to receiving the tree so that all utility lines can be located. I would urge you not to plant trees over water or sewer lines and if you have buried power lines in your yard, a safe distance away from those lines as well.

If you have specific questions about any of the variety of trees being offered, you can contact any member of the Tree Board. In addition, Sidney is fortunate to have two certified arborists, Joyce Reier and Brian Green, employed by the city. They too, are available to answer questions about the varieties of trees being offered for sale. Order forms and payment can be dropped off, or mailed, to the service center at 415 South Vandemark Road.

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By Mike Barhorst

Contributing columnist

The writer is the mayor of Sidney.