Columbus sees momentum for local tree growing plan
Columbus arborists are starting to see an urban forest for the trees.
Driving the news: A citywide plan is underway to preserve public trees and plant new ones, while local leaders will eye code changes this fall to protect tree coverage.
Why it matters: Trees reduce air pollution, provide shade and absorb rainwater to prevent flooding.
The big picture: Columbus set ambitious goals two years ago to stop net canopy loss by 2030 and eventually increase the overall tree coverage to 40% by planting more trees in targeted neighborhoods.
- The Recreation and Parks Department spent years documenting the location and health of every tree on public grounds to guide these efforts.
What they found: The department tallied 125,796 trees, most of which are in "good" or "fair" condition.
- Columbus is home to 330 unique tree species, with maple being the most common species among them.
- There are wide disparities in tree coverage between neighborhoods — Clintonville is one of the largest areas, with 41% of it shaded by trees, while Italian Village and downtown are at the bottom at 11% and 9% respectively.
The intrigue: Researchers also tracked neighborhood statistics on health, crime, education and diversity to help guide future tree planting.
- One high priority area is the Hilltop, where a collection of historic white oak trees stand in Westgate Park.
- City arborists are growing a new generation of white oaks to eventually replant there.
Across the whole city, there are 96,500 available planting spaces located primarily on tree lawns between streets and sidewalks.
- Most of them can accommodate medium- and large-sized trees.
What they're saying: "The larger the tree the more environmental benefits [it provides]," senior environmental planner Rosalie Hendon tells Axios.
- She's glad to have inventory data as a "road map" to proactively replace trees in poor health rather than just reacting to storms and residential 311 requests.
What's next: The Recreation and Parks Department wants a tree code change that mandates new trees be planted if any are removed for development and infrastructure projects.
- At a committee hearing last week, City Councilman Emmanuel Remy called the proposal "an important step" in the work to protect local trees.
- Council members are expected to vote on tree code amendments later this year.
How you can support local trees
🧠 Be smart about your neighborhood. Columbus has dozens of reports highlighting your area's tree species, conditions and potential planning sites.
🔎 Learn how to better identify them. City forester Steve Horhut will host a free "tree walk" for residents at 10am Oct. 3 in Whetstone Park.
🌳 Snag and plant a free tree. Green Columbus is offering tree giveaways next month and you can reserve one online.
- You're encouraged to call the Ohio Utilities Protection Service ahead of any digging.
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