Burlington to Host Operation ReLeaf Event
Posted: 09/19/2013

BURLINGTON – A popular program offering landscape quality trees at a deep discount to Alliant Energy customers will be held at the Armory, 2500 Summer Street, Burlington, from 8 to 10 a.m., on Oct. 12. 

Operation ReLeaf, a residential tree planting program that promotes long-term energy and natural resource conservation, is funded by Alliant Energy and administered by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources’ Forestry Bureau with assistance from local partners, like Des Moines County Extension.

The City of Burlington has more than 900 ash trees and city forester Casey Chadwick estimates the number of ash trees on private property could be three times as many. For ash trees left untreated, the Iowa DNR recommends planting a tree of another species within 30 feet of the ash.

This event is an opportunity to purchase ash replacement trees and help maintain or increase Burlington’s urban forest canopy of 29 percent.

Through the Operation ReLeaf program, Alliant Energy residential customers may purchase high quality landscaping trees for $25 each.  These trees typically retail for between $65 and $125. 

Advanced order is highly recommended and advance purchase is limited to two trees per household.  In the event there are extra trees available on distribution day, those trees will be released for purchase at that time.  Order forms are available online at www.alliantenergy.com/releaf.

With an established emerald ash borer (EAB) population already in Burlington, the DNR is encouraging homeowners to plant a diverse mix of tree species to reduce the impact of this and other tree pests. Foresters have been working with local partners to create community tree inventories that will guide future tree planting efforts to keep a healthy mix of tree species.

The most recent tree survey for Burlington finds 21 percent of the trees are maple followed by ash at 6 percent and oak at 4 percent. The DNR has a target for communities that no more than 10 percent of the trees are from any one species, and no more than 20 percent is from one genus.

Trees available at each distribution event are determined by the local tree species inventory. For Burlington, species available Kentucky coffeetree, red oak, swamp white oak, sweetgum, edible pear, royal start magnolia, Japanese tree lilac and white fir.

Shade trees are 6 to 8 feet tall in 5 to 7 gallon containers and conifers are 2 to 3 feet tall.

“All trees are purchased through a bidding process to promote local nurseries,” said Paul Tauke, state forester and chief of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources Forestry Bureau.  “This is a great way for homeowners to get a quality tree at an affordable price.”

A workshop lead by district forester Lisa Louck will discuss ways to treat ash trees for EAB and offer recommendations to battle this invasive pest at 9 a.m. during this tree distribution.

The workshop will also provide information to avoid common mistakes that often result in dead trees. 
“Research has shown that more than 50 percent of trees planted in urban settings are planted incorrectly, even when planted by professionals,” said Louck.

The 45 minute workshop will cover the most common mistakes that can shorten the tree lifespan by decades, including finding the root flare, proper planting depth, correcting and preventing encircling roots, proper mulching and watering, corrective pruning to reduce future storm damage, and planting around buildings for energy efficiency and more.

Just a few of the advantages of yard trees are:
• Decrease in household heating and cooling costs
• Increase in  property values
• Decrease in storm water runoff, which may reduce flooding events
• Beauty and personal enjoyment

Studies have found that by having tree lined streets more people spend time outside which can improve activity and lower their body mass index, especially in kids.  Studies also link trees to reduced asthma rates.

Operation ReLeaf participants must be Alliant Energy residential customers.