Five Years of Foster-A-Tree

Back in 2010, the Urban Forestry Department began exploring ways to overcome the challenges of replanting trees throughout the City to make up for those removed through the Street Tree Risk Management Program (an assistance program for mitigation of hazardous issues on trees originating from the public right-of-way). Historically when a tree was removed by the Department, the adjacent resident would be offered a new one to replace it. Staff found that oftentimes, the resident was not interested in another tree, or may not have space for one in the right-of-way of their yard. The City already had a proactive tree planting program, but filling a median or public area with trees did not address the need for replenishing residential areas with trees and to create a patchwork tree canopy of different species and sizes throughout town. Furthermore, Urban Forestry did not have the resources to plant trees in this way and care for them until establishment. From these considerations, the Foster-A-Tree program was born.
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Through Foster-A-Tree, any person living within Edmond City Limits on a public road can sign up to have a tree planted within the street right-of-way of their yard. The City will purchase and plant the tree, provide a Treegator watering bag, offer technical assistance, and return to perform structural pruning on two occasions early in the tree’s life. The participant’s contribution includes committing to watering the tree for two years as it becomes established and protecting the tree from harm. The program has become a successful partnership between Edmond residents and the City, with benefits for the entire community.

When Urban Forestry began the Foster-A-Tree program in 2010, we had no idea how much it would be embraced by Edmond residents. We have participants now on their third tree that have been involved in the program since the very first season! Each year participation grows, and neighborhoods have begun rallying together to have streets lined with shade trees through the Foster-A-Tree program. Today, there are nearly 500 foster trees throughout Edmond, shown by the green dots in the aerial photo to the right (this image shows Spring 2010-Fall 2014). The distribution is mainly concentrated west of I35, due to a higher density of residences and larger number of public streets, as well as the natural edge between cross timbers forest (east) and prairie land cover (west). Survival rates are currently greater than 90%

One of the goals of Foster-A-Tree is promotion of species diversity. A general recommendation for urban forest management is to strive for no more than 10% of the tree population from one species, and no more than 20% from a single genus. This is not always realistic given the makeup of native forests and environmental constraints of planting a variety of species. However, Urban Forestry has offered 73 different species/cultivars since the beginning of the program, from 36 different genera. In the instance of a pest or disease problem affecting an individual species, Edmond is well on its way to increasing defenses against canopy decimation.

Foster-A-Tree has been a great tool for increasing tree canopy and maximizing the benefits of trees throughout the City. Trees planted through this program are increasing property values, providing shade which will contribute to energy savings and cooler streets over the years, fighting the urban heat island effect, reducing stormwater impacts, cleaning the air, and improving mental well being for people who pass by them every day. Furthermore, Foster-A-Tree is a great way for residents to get involved in the community, contributing to a better local environment while engaging with nature. Thank you to each and every participant in the Foster-A-Tree program for taking part in the care of Edmond’s urban forest. We look forward to seeing where the next five years takes us!

If you would like to sign up for the Foster-A-Tree program, please register online. We would love to see your posts about existing foster trees! Use the hashtag “EdmondTrees” when posting about your tree on Instagram or Facebook.

View more topics from the Summer 2015 edition of Edmond Tree Mail