Let’s Grow!
Urban foresters help pick the right street trees

Some trees make ideal street trees, others create problems. This planting of thornless honey locusts is perfect for the city streets of Philadelphia. (GoodSeed Farm photo)
By Steve Boehme

What is an “urban forester”? In Ohio, our Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) created a program to promote trees to enhance the quality of life in our cities and villages. This includes a staff of regional urban foresters, experts in the specialty of planting and maintaining trees in cities and towns, who visit and assist public tree programs.

Faced with maintaining overgrown Bradford pear trees in the business district, the Village of Peebles turned to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) for advice several years ago in selecting the right replacements and locating them properly. After several visits for fact-finding, ODNR urban forester Wendi Van Buren helped Peebles install trees that do well along city streets.

We called her again to help with the creation of a new park area in Peebles. Wendi’s input was very valuable in choosing appropriate trees to enhance McCoy Park without becoming a maintenance burden for the village.

Wendi showed us some research showing that large shade trees improve the success of business districts, creating a pleasant shopping environment that attracts foot traffic and browsing. “People don’t see trees, they feel them” in a downtown, Wendi says. We’ve personally experienced this in several of our favorite shopping towns. Research shows that towns with well-chosen and well-maintained street trees actually attract more shoppers, from further distances, who in turn spend more in local shops.

Wendi pointed out the benefits of shade trees on school campuses; lower rates of ADHD, asthma and skin cancer, as well as better student performance and quality of life. We all agreed that it would be a good idea to plant shade trees next to the playgrounds in each local school district.

A big concern for urban foresters is avoiding “invasive” plant species. Our local forests are threatened by over-planting of such trees as silver maple and ornamental pear, because these trees crowd out native trees and reduce the variety and diversity of naturally-occurring plants. Another big issue for urban foresters right now is the management of tree diseases and pests like the emerald ash borer. Urban foresters can help communities steer clear of threatened tree varieties, and replace doomed trees with more pest-resistant selections for the future.

Ohio’s urban foresters help organize and train community “tree corps”, volunteers who take ongoing responsibility for publicly-owned trees. Having a committed group of “citizen arborists” helps a community make good decisions and move forward with new tree projects, as well as helping maintain these that already exist. If you are interested in such a program please call or e-mail me. For more information about urban forestry in Ohio, check out this link to the ODNR website: http://ohiodnr.com/Home/urban/UrbanForestryHome/tabid/5438/Default.aspx

Steve Boehme is the owner of GoodSeed Nursery & Landscape, located on Old State Route 32 three miles west of Peebles. To e-mail your landscaping questions click “Contact Us” from their website at www.goodseedfarm.com or call (937) 587-7021.