CINCINNATI – Mary Jo Bazeley is obsessed with nature.
From gardening in her own backyard to volunteering at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden, she has spent much of her 71 years on Earth enjoying all that Mother Nature has to offer.
One of the biggest passions of West Price Hill residents is participating in Cincinnati Parks’ Fall ReLeaf program. The project aims to improve canopy cover of trees across Cincinnati.
This year, Cincinnati Parks is donating 1,700 trees. The program opened on Saturday to select neighborhoods with limited canopy cover. It will roll out citywide on September 4, if trees are still available.
Species include oriental redbud, sugarberry, tulip tree, papaya, and blue beech, which is sometimes referred to as musclewood or American hornbeam. There are half a dozen other species on this year’s list.
âWe just believe in this program,â Bazeley said. “It’s such a fantastic program. You get a beautiful tree and it makes your garden so much more beautiful.”
Volunteers like Bazeley and her husband, Fritz, help plant trees of different sizes and species in neighborhoods across the city. Bazeley said they were loading trees into the back of Fritz’s truck and delivering them to participating residents.
âMy husband likes to joke that every time we plant a tree in a little old lady’s garden, they give her a diet Coke. He never knows what to say because he doesn’t drink diet sodas, “she laughed.” He actually just told someone that story the other day.
The Bazeleys have participated in ReLeaf each of the 33 years of the program. Meanwhile, Cincinnati Parks donated 20,000 trees made up of more than 40 species for free.
Trees come in three different sizes: about 8 feet, between 25 and 30 feet, and much, much taller.
Bazeley planted ReLeaf trees in his own backyard – a star magnolia and a London planetree, which replaced a maple tree that had died. London’s planetree is two and a half stories tall.
âRight now I have more trees than I know what to do with them,â Bazeley said. Her garden is full and she also grows her own trees. She has a few growing in flower pots in her house right now.
“I think they’ll end up going to Dunham (Recreation Center),” she said.
The ReLeaf program has flourished to include community and school participation, a more diverse selection of tree species, and backyard planting.
Over the years, Bazely said she has helped plant trees in several important public areas around her home – Rapid Run Park, Dunham Recreation Center and Carson Elementary School.
âI put three thought redbuds and a serviceberry in Carson Elementary,â she said.
Initially, volunteers would go door to door asking individuals if they wanted to participate. Cincinnati Parks now allows people to register online.
A forest cover can have many environmental benefits, such as reducing maximum summer temperatures and air pollution. It can also increase property values ââand make yards and neighborhoods more attractive.
Studies show that trees can also have health benefits and stress relief.
âIt’s a difference day and night. A community with trees is so much nicer. For starters, walking on the sidewalk is cooler. When you walk down a street without a tree canopy or with a very limited canopy, it’s hot, you’re in the sun and it’s not as pleasant, âshe said. “And you won’t have cicadas.”
Bazeley was particularly interested in the branches of his tricolor European beech where cicadas lay their eggs.
Her daughter and children came from New Haven, Connecticut this spring to discover the 17-year-old cicadas. She had three different species of cicadas on her property.
Because of the importance of the tree canopy, Cincinnati Parks wants to make sure there is fair coverage in local neighborhoods.
Cincinnati Parks said the program was created to provide shade trees to homeowners whose border lawns are too narrow for tree planting or for those with overhead power lines.
âWe can only plant trees within the city right-of-way or property, so to achieve the desired canopy threshold we need residents to plant trees in their own backyards,â said Matt DiBona of Cincinnati Parks .
In addition to being an arborist by training, DiBona is a GIS analyst. He helped Cincinnati Parks do a tree survey of all of Cincinnati’s neighborhoods.
âThis gives us an average of where we can create a canopy and where the canopy is already healthy enough, so we focus on the areas where we know there is room for improvement and growth,â a he declared.
DiBona said Cincinnati Parks divided the canopy goals into three sections. They aim for 25% coverage in mixed residential / commercial areas and 10% in the city center. But for largely residential areas, they aim for 40% coverage.
While overall coverage in Cincinnati is healthy, DiBona said various areas across the city need more help.
Cincinnati Parks is now accepting tree applications from residents of 20 neighborhoods below the 40% mark.
DiBona said Oakley is the perfect example. While there are a lot of trees in the residential parts of the neighborhood, there are also a lot of industrial treeless spaces that affect the overall canopy cover.
âIn Oakley, the canopy is very low compared to Hyde Park or Mount Lookout, so what we want to try to do is concentrate the trees in the ground to increase that canopy cover compared to other neighborhoods in the area,â did he declare. .
Oakley is home to MadTree Brewing, which is sponsoring Fall ReLeaf for the second year in a row. Other sponsors include Macy’s and the Cincinnati Parks Foundation.
Additional information about the Fall ReLeaf program is available on the Cincinnati Parks website.