Communities of Trees

By Justine Gartner | January 2, 1998
From Missouri Conservationist: Jan 1998

Who plants trees in your town? As hazardous, dead trees are removed, who replaces them? Who in your community assures a healthy and growing community forest? Fortunately, a lot of people have taken on these important challenges.Many city leaders, school administrators and teachers have planted trees by taking advantage of the Conservation Department's tree planting cost share program, called Branch Out Missouri (BOM). The Conservation Department began the Branch Out Missouri program in 1991 in recognition of the value that trees have in towns. BOM is a competitive cost-share program designed to encourage planting and maintaining trees in Missouri communities.

"We have a beautiful school campus because we were able to plant trees where few existed" says Dr. Charles Hawkins, assistant principal at Glendale High School, Springfield School District. "Can you imagine what our school will look like in 10 or 15 years?"

A tree planting plan, developed by the Conservation Department, guided Glendale's efforts. Two successful Branch Out Missouri projects allowed the school to plant trees to shade buildings and parking lots, beautify the front of the school and buffer the football field and its noise from the surrounding neighborhood, all within two years.

Dr. Hawkin's says, "Without Branch Out Missouri, the project would have been done in piecemeal fashion, if at all." BOM allowed the school to move forward quickly at little expense.

Branch Out Missouri also allows communities to secure matching funds for limited dollars allocated for landscaping.

The Boone County Sheriff's Department needed that kind of help to plant trees around its new administration building and jail. They had planted a few large trees, along with many seedling trees but didn't have enough money to do much more. Branch Out Missouri dollars allowed the Sheriff's Department to plant additional 8- to 10-foot tall trees.

Captain Beverly Braun, who supervised the project, says she saw instant results. "The planting was such a success and was so visible that the Boone County Commissioners budgeted money to plant more trees the next year." The Sheriff's Department planted this second project on their own. However, it was the Branch Out Missouri planting that made the second project possible. "The grounds look just wonderful," says Braun of the second planting project.

The BOM program provided the city of Centralia a springboard to secure financial support for community tree planting. Like many other towns, Centralia's urban trees are aging and beginning to decline. "Unless new trees were planted, the city's forest was in danger of vanishing," says Mary Alice Reinhardt, president of the city's Tree Board.

Working through the city's board of aldermen and the mayor, local service organizations provided the required local funding for cost sharing. The city of Centralia has planted 40 to 50 trees every year since Branch Out Missouri's inception in 1992. More than just trees have been planted, however. Reinhardt believes that seeds of awareness also have been planted about the importance of trees in a community.

This awareness and the financial commitment to tree care and planting have allowed the city to participate in the National Arbor Day Foundation's Tree City USA program. Tree City USA has been a tool for Centralia to rally civic pride and increase public awareness of the importance of trees in the city's infrastructure.

Kansas City has aggressively participated in the BOM program for several years, according to Mark Govea, assistant manager of horticultural services with Kansas City's Horticultural and Boulevard Services. "The trees provided through this program have been greatly appreciated by the Kansas City community," Govea says.

Branch Out Missouri helped the city's tree planting efforts and provided them an opportunity to work with a large number of individuals, neighborhoods and associations. Kansas City's Horticultural and Boulevard Services have used the BOM program as a tool to match limited dollars. Larger projects were planted at minimal extra cost to the city.

Every community has trees, and most communities have limited resources available for tree planting and care. Trees, however, are an integral part of any community. They can cool homes, increase property values, screen objectional views or reduce noise.

Most communities, like Kansas City and Centralia, find that dollars for landscaping compete with street repair and other infrastructure improvements. Schools like Glendale High School normally would find themselves planting trees only when people donated money. BOM offers an opportunity to stretch limited dollars and to have a larger immediate impact.

During Branch Out Missouri's first year, the Conservation Department mailed $100 coupons to purchase trees to every mayor in the state. In 1992 the agency designed a competitive cost-share program. Since then, the Branch Out Missouri program has awarded almost $900,000 in cost sharing. Communities completed more than 300 projects that included more than 17,000 trees.

The requirements to participate in the program are simple. All trees must be planted on public property, and the trees must measure between 1 to 3 inches in stem diameter. The deadline to submit applications is April 30. Because Branch Out Missouri is a tree planting program, shrubs do not qualify. Cost-share funds are awarded competitively. If a project is funded, applicants can plant trees the following fall or spring.

Who plants trees in your town? Who in your community assures a healthy growing community forest? It could be you. For more information on this program, contact your nearest Conservation Department regional office.

This Issue's Staff

Editor - Tom Cwynar
Assistant Editor - Charlotte Overby
Managing Editor - Jim Auckley
Art Editor - Dickson Stauffer
Designer - Tracy Ritter
Artist - Dave Besenger
Artist - Mark Raithel
Photographer - Jim Rathert
Photographer - Cliff White
Staff Writer - Jim Low
Staff Writer - Joan McKee
Composition - Libby Bode Block
Circulation - Bertha Bainer