STOW — Although the city could be celebrating 40 years designated as "Tree City USA" in May, the name may be in jeopardy.

The Urban Forestry Commission Jan. 23 presented the benefits of having trees in a city but also showed planting trees in Stow has been on a decline.

City Treasurer Jim Costello said the sharing program where the cost of trees is split between the city and property owner has been in existence for a "long period of time" and was developed as an incentive to have homeowners install trees." 

The city budgeted $10,000 per year for trees, Costello said. The city can budget for additional trees if requested.

Landscape Arborist Sue Mottl said residents save money by partnering with the city and paying $125 for a tree on the strip of land between the sidewalk and road. Those in the military pay $75 for a tree.

The city plants, mulches, adds a tree guard, water bag and guarantees the tree for one year, Mottl said. They could pay $400 to $500 for a private contractor to plant a tree. 

Most of the trees between the sidewalk and curbs were originally planted by developers but they are dying off and need to be replaced, Mottl said. When the program began in 2006, they sold all their trees in the first few years but there has been a sharp decline in recent years. 

Trees can die from no mulch, improper mulch, lawn mowers or weed whips scarring the bark, vehicles hitting the tree, lack of water or maintenance, she said. 

If a homeowner wants to plant a tree in the front yard instead of the tree lawn, they can participate in the program and pay $125, but the resident takes care of the tree, Mottl said. Corner lots can have a tree on the front and side planted with the program.

The commission has a detailed inventory and rotates species to prevent a catastrophic loss from disease or insect invasion.

A tree inventory was completed in 2007 and when a tree dies, that spot becomes available for the program, Mottl said. She chooses what tree to plant to maintain diversity and selects the proper tree for the site.

Homeowners, when choosing a tree for their yards, need to know the mature size of the tree and allow for plenty of distance from driveways, foundations and power lines, she said.

For 2020 only 12 of the 50 trees in the city-resident Cost Share Program have been spoken for. The Cost Share Program splits the cost of a tree on a tree lawn 50/50 between the city and property owner. 

In 2019 only 17 street trees were planted of the 45 total trees planted; 12 were planted in the parks; five at Fox Den Golf Course; four at cemeteries; four at Fire State #2; two memorial trees; and one at the library.

The city has 4,015 vacant planting sites that don’t include trees that have died.  

"We need to plant 200 trees per year for 20 years to fill the current planting sites," said Bob Brantsch, chair of the Urban Forestry Commission. It would cost $40,000 per year for 20 years to restock the vacant street planting sites.

Disease and insects have impacted the number of trees with 612 ash trees removed and 347 ash trees replaced using grant money.

It would cost $53,000 to replace the 265 vacant planting sites from the destruction of the Emerald Ash Borer.

Trees create a higher property value; attract customers to downtown businesses; prolong pavement life; promote safer driving; reduce storm water; lowers the ground temperature with shade; students perform better with trees on school property; and trees create safer and more social neighborhoods, Bratsch said.

For residents interested in the program, call 330-689-5120 and an application will be sent. 

Gannett reporter Laura Freeman can be reached at 330-541-9434 or lfreeman@recordpub.com.