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ReLeaf returns: How to get free trees if you live in Cincinnati

two young trees on a small tree lawn along a four lane road
Tana Weingartner
With 37% tree canopy coverage, Hartwell is one of the locations Cincinnati Parks is encouraging homeowners to plant trees on private property.

Cincinnati Parks' annual ReLeaf free tree program returns this month. Again this year the park district is prioritizing low canopy neighborhoods.

Beginning Saturday, Aug. 20, homeowners in designated neighborhoods can apply to receive up to two free trees. The Park Board's Urban Forestry division uses a remote sensing technology called Lidar (Light Detection and Ranging) to map tree coverage across the city. Neighborhoods with less than 40% tree canopy per the 2021 tree censusare listed below.

The program opens to the rest of the city Sept. 3.

Trees offer a variety of benefits, says Matthew DiBona, GIS computer systems analyst with the Cincinnati Park Board.

"If it's planted in the correct location with correct tree species, it can provide shade, which will reduce your energy burden when it comes to your energy bills," he says. "Also (trees) can help pick up water or control water in areas that might be a little bit damper in relation to other areas in your yard. Finally, trees do a really good job in protecting our air — they pick up pollution. Unfortunately, we do have some highways that run through the city so it's an opportunity to create a little buffer to try to mediate (that) pollution uptake in your yard.

Trees may be planted anywhere in your yard. The agency has about 1,000 trees to give away this year, DiBona says. New this year is an evergreen: the green giant arborvitae.

"Like we did last year, we are launching a survey to have people participate and show us where the trees are going, and then we're going to be tracking those trees over time to tell the story of how these trees actually affected the community and the homeowners," says DiBona.

Registration information will be available here when the program opens.

Types of trees available this year include: sugar maple, blackgum, ironwood, American plum, red oak, Allegheny serviceberry, pawpaw and green giant arborvitae.

Target neighborhoods with less than 40% tree canopy:

Avondale (37%)
Bond Hill (25%)
Camp Washington (8%)
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%)

Senior Editor and reporter at WVXU with more than 20 years experience in public radio; formerly news and public affairs producer with WMUB. Would really like to meet your dog.