OSKALOOSA — Over 100 trees were planted in Oskaloosa on Saturday.
Oskaloosa’s Trees Forever members were joined on Nov. 2 by volunteers equipped with gloves, shovels, rakes and enthusiasm.
Dr. Craig H. Cohen, chairman of the local Trees Forever group, said despite the autumnal chill, it was a great time of year to plant the trees.
“We like to plant in October, we got it pushed to November this year, but we always like to plant in October or the very first of November,” he said. “Get them in the ground, get them wet and keep them wet til it freezes. And then in spring, they just pop.”
Around 106 trees were planted in the downtown area, from Market Street to H Street and from High Avenue to Third Avenue. Cohen said the group tries to plant in sections at a time.
Cohen said Trees Forever plants a variety of trees that are native to Iowa. This year, the trees were obtained from a nursery in Albia.
“Trees will vary, depending on the situation,” he said. “We plant on the curbs between the sidewalk and the street, so we have to take into account any overhead lines. Some are decorative flowering trees like dogwoods or [crabapples] or redbuds and then we have, where it’s nice, open space, we have the hardwoods: oaks, honey locusts, just a variety.”
The goal is to not have the same trees planted all together.
“So if we have a disease [or insect] come through like the ash borer, we don’t have a whole row of trees being cut down at one time,” he said. “So we generally will have about 15-20 different species every year.”
Trees Forever was started in Oskaloosa in 1996. The plan, Cohen said, is to always try to plant about 100 trees a year on public parking.
“We’ve met that goal pretty much every year,” he said.
Having a tree-filled city is important, Cohen said, for absorbing groundwater runoff, cleaning the air, reducing the carbon effect, reducing the heat islands of all the concrete.
“Our streets, actually, will last longer if they’re shaded, as compared to if they’re not,” he said. “Then you have the health benefits of trees. They just make you feel healthier, of course. And the beauty of having trees on the street. And it reduces energy costs for homes if they’ll make shade for the home.”
Community members can be part of Trees Forever and help in a multitude of ways, Cohen said.
“We have volunteers for planting, of course,” he said. “We do have a committee that meets throughout the year that we’re always looking for members. They can help with donations. We depend solely on donations from the public.”
The groups got their marching orders from Cohen and set off to their assigned locations. The planters widened the holes pre-placed by an auger. Cohen said one of the most important tasks to ensure the trees survived the winter was to make sure the root balls were not placed too deeply in the holes. The planting groups made sure the tree was standing straight before filling dirt back in around the root ball. Mulching groups followed the planters and spread buckets of mulch near the trees.