City and county government agencies are among those eligible to apply for free trees through the Tree Bank Foundation, an Edmond-based 501(c)3, for placement in public areas such as neighborhood entrances, trails, parks, main streets and more. Applications are due to the Tree Bank Foundation by 5PM Friday, September 5.

In Central Oklahoma’s long-range transportation plan, Encompass 2035, visually attractive streetscapes are mentioned as a strategy for healthier, more livable communities. Tree-lined streets calm traffic and discourage speeding, creating a safer environment for pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers alike. In the Federal Highway Administration’s 2001 best practices design guide “Designing Sidewalks and Trails for Access,” trees are described as providing “a visual and auditory buffer between pedestrians and automobile traffic,” and creating “a sense of enclosure that discourages drivers from speeding” when planted on both sides of the street.

The quality of Central Oklahoma’s air can benefit from tree-lined streets, too. Trees can both intercept and absorb airborne pollution particles including ground-level ozone, a by-product of transportation emissions formed during Central Oklahoma’s hot summers.

Another component of air pollution formation, the urban heat island effect, is similarly mitigated by trees. Developed urban areas are populated by materials such as concrete and asphalt that absorb the sun’s energy more so than nearby rural areas. The elevated temperatures of an urban heat island can directly increase the formation of ground-level ozone air pollution. Not only can the shade provided by trees mitigate ozone formation by lowering air and surface temperatures but shaded buildings can benefit from a decreased need for air conditioning, reducing energy consumption.

For more reasons why street trees are valuable tools, read Dan Burden’s 2006 report “22 Benefits of Urban Street Trees.” The Tree Bank Foundation also outlines the value of trees on their website.

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