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Cincinnati Parks' Free Tree Offer Is Back With A Twist

sapling in a person's hand
Image by Nico Wall

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

Beginning Saturday, Aug. 21, homeowners in designated neighborhoods can apply to receive a free tree. The Park Board's Urban Forestry division used a remote sensing technology called Lidar (Light Detection and Ranging) to map tree coverage across the city. Neighborhoods with less than 40% tree canopy are listed here.

"We want to get trees where they're going to have the best impact in creating canopy coverage across the city," says Matthew DiBona, GIS computer systems analyst with the Cincinnati Park Board.

ReLeaf is also a good way for the parks department to help increase tree canopy where it usually can't - on private land.

"We really can only propagate and plant on city right-of-way," DiBona points out. "However, this ReLeaf program gives us an opportunity to actually invest in private property. That's a huge game-changer for us, and it's why it's so important for us to have this program and maintain it in longevity... (because) we can actually be investing on private property which also gives a benefit to the entire community."

The parks department is partnering with Cincinnati Public Schools, too, to identify schools within priority communities and arrange planting sessions with students.

In the past, trees had to be planted in front yards. This year, DiBona says, they can go anywhere in your yard. ReLeaf has about 1,700 trees to give out. There's a limit of two per household. The program opens to all Cincinnati residents Sept. 4.

Registration information will be available here when the program opens.

Types of trees available this year include: sugarberry, redbud, tuliptree, swamp white oak, bald cypress, red maple, Allegheny serviceberry, pawpaw and blue beech.

Target neighborhoods with less than 40% tree canopy:

Mt. Adams (31%)
Walnut Hills (33%)
East End (30%)
Avondale (37%)
Lower Price Hill (20%)
Queensgate (10%)
West End (14%)
Over-the-Rhine (13%)
Downtown (7%)
Corryville (14%)
Pendleton (12%)
Camp Washington (8%)
Hartwell (37%)
Roselawn (26%)
Bond Hill (25%)
Madisonville (36%)
Oakley (26%)
Evanston (31%)
Linwood (28%)

The Park Board's Urban Forestry division runs the annual ReLeaf program as an effort to bring residential neighborhoods up to 40% tree canopy coverage. It's given away more than 20,000 trees since the late '80s.

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.