Overland Park & Leawood

Planting for the future

It’s been a tough year for trees.

On one hand, tree lovers are grieving in advance about the impending destruction of millions of ash trees in the area by the emerald ash borer. On the other, new rules about yard waste collection have frustrated some residents to the point of wanting to get rid of their trees.

But there’s reason to be optimistic about the state of trees in Johnson County, says Overland Park forester Sarah Patterson.

“We’re trending to be a little more concerned about the environment and sustainability issues as a country,” she said, as she prepared to help grade-school children celebrate Arbor Day at Overland Park City Hall on Friday. “I do think a lot of people really love their trees.”

Gradually, people are becoming aware of the way trees save money and make life better, she said. And if they didn’t know that, there are people to clue them in. The city and Bridging the Gap have put signs on random public trees with estimates of how much they save in pollution control and storm water management.

Two trees at Overland Park’s city hall, for instance, were said to have saved $7,639 and $15,143. That figure comes from a formula devised by the U.S. Forest Service. It figures in the type of tree and its approximate age. The formula also considers property enhancement and an improved business climate in tree-lined areas.

Patterson said she’s heard from a handful of people so upset by the new rules limiting yard waste in the landfill that they’ve wanted to get rid of their trees because they don’t want to deal with the leaves.

“But there are more people who feel the other way,” that trees are worth the effort, she said.

Since last year, bags of trees, twigs and grass clippings have been barred from the landfill. Instead, they must be composted. That has caused trash haulers to revise their rates, in some cases imposing limits on the number of bags allowed.

As for the ash borer, Patterson said she recommends that people with ash trees start thinking ahead to the day they might have to cut them down, perhaps planting a replacement tree nearby for a couple of years before that happens.

Still, the city is going in the right direction by requiring developers to plant trees along the streets in new subdivisions, she said. According to a tree census recently completed by volunteers, Overland Park has 49,000 trees, she said.

Overland Park celebrated its trees with a poster contest and tree planting ceremony outside City Hall. Kindergarten- through fourth-graders who won the contest got to help plant an Ivory Snow white lilac tree.

The first-place winners were: Echo Miller, kindergarten; Caitlyn Huang, first grade; Maya Cortez, second grade; Caitlin Harrigton, third grade and David Joseph, fourth grade.

Other cities in the area also celebrated Arbor Day and/or Earth Day. Roeland Park and Fairway were among the cities hosting activities or planting trees. In addition, several Johnson County cities have been named Tree Cities USA by the Arbor Day Foundation. Tree City designation is given to cities that support forestry through the city budget, a tree care ordinance, a tree board or department and a proclamation.

Tree Cities in Johnson County are De Soto, Gardner, Lake Quivira, Leawood, Lenexa, Merriam, Mission, Olathe, Overland Park, Prairie Village, Roeland Park, Shawnee, Westwood and Westwood Hills.