Cincinnati Parks Giving Away Free Trees to Residents During Fall ReLeaf Program

This year's free trees include pawpaws, sugar maples, red oaks and more.

click to enlarge This year's free trees include pawpaws (pictured), sugar maples, red oaks and more. - Photo: Scott Bauer, USDA
Photo: Scott Bauer, USDA
This year's free trees include pawpaws (pictured), sugar maples, red oaks and more.

Cincinnati Parks is giving away free trees to area residents, and the only thing you need to do is sign up to get one.

For the past 35 years, Cincinnati Parks' fall ReLeaf program has been helping to build the city's tree canopy by providing more than 20,000 trees to residents at no cost. The program works like this: apply to get a free tree, get approved, pick it up and plant it in your yard.

"Planting a tree is one of the simplest ways to improve our environment and quality of life right here in Cincinnati," says Cincinnati Parks in a release.

The "tree canopy" is a term used to describe how many trees and how much coverage they provide in order to offset the "impacts of air pollution, urban heat island effect, residential energy demands and storm water management," says Cincinnati Parks. "Just one large canopy deciduous tree, such as an oak or sycamore, can help control 400 to 1,000 gallons of storm water through canopy interception. This benefits homeowners by adding shade, beauty, reducing soil erosion, and managing flooding from rainfall."

The goal is to get the entire city of Cincinnati to a 40% canopy coverage. And while the parks department says the ReLeaf program has helped raise the overall canopy 5% in the last five years — to 43% — many neighborhoods fall short of this goal. 

ReLeaf applications for those who live in low-canopy neighborhoods are open now. (Canopy percentages have been calculated based on the parks' 2021 Tree Canopy Census.) Those neighborhoods are:
  • Avondale (37%)
  • Bond Hill (25%)
  • Camp Washington (8%)
  • Carthage(33%)
  • Corryville (14%)
  • Downtown (7%)
  • East End (30%)
  • Evanston (31%)
  • Hartwell (37%)
  • Linwood (28%)
  • Lower Price Hill (20%)
  • Madisonville (36%)
  • Mt. Adams (31%)
  • Oakley (26%)
  • Over-the-Rhine (13%)
  • Pendleton (12%)
  • Queensgate (10%)
  • Roselawn (26%)
  • Walnut Hills (33%)
  • West End (14%)

Applications for other Cincinnatians open at 8 a.m. Sept. 3. 

So what trees can you get?

This year's offerings include:
  1. Sugar maple — It needs full sun to partial shade and will grow to be 75 feet tall and 50 feet wide. Growth rate is medium.
  2. Blackgum — It can grow in full sun, partial sun and shade and attracts birds and wildlife. With a slow-to-medium growth rate, the tree can grow to 50 feet high with a 30-foot spread.
  3. Ironwood — A slow-growing tree that needs partial to deep shade. It is low maintenance and is good for clay-rich soils. It will grow to be 35 feet tall and 30 feet wide.
  4. American plum — A fast-growing tree that needs full sun or partial shade. It will reach 10 to 20 feet in height.
  5. Red oak — This fast-growing tree needs full sun and boasts great fall foliage. It will grow to be 60 to 75 feet tall.
  6. Allegheny serviceberry — This slow-growing tree offers spring blooms and fruit for wildlife. It grows in partial shade and can reach 20 feet by 20 feet.
  7. Pawpaw — The slow-growing pawpaw fruit tree needs full sun to partial shade. It will grow to be 20 feet tall and 15 feet wide.
  8. Green giant arborvitae — This fast-growing, pyramid-shaped tree will get to be 60 feet by 20 feet. It can grown in full sun, partial sun or shade.
Tree pick-up is available from 8 a.m.-1 p.m. on Oct. 22 at MadTree Brewing (3301 Madison Road, Oakley) or noon-3 p.m. Oct. 24 at Cincinnati Parks' Natural Resources Building (3215 Reading Road, Corryville).

ReLeaf applications are available online at cincinnatiparks.regfox.com.

But there are a few registration requirements. Among them: You must plant the tree within Cincinnati city limits, you cannot plant the tree between the street and the sidewalk and if you have questions about whether or not your property can support a tree — and avoid wires and utilities — you can call 513-861-9070 to talk to a tree expert. Cincinnati Parks says it will also offer tree delivery to those in "priority neighborhoods" who don't have transportation or need an accessibility accommodation.

Each application will be reviewed by the Cincinnati Parks Urban Forestry team to make sure each applicant's property meets the requirements. They will notify you if yours does not.

For more information on Cincinnati Parks' fall ReLeaf program, visit cincinnati-oh.gov.

The program is supported by MadTree Brewing, Cincinnati Parks Foundation and Dynegy.

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