Dayton, local land bank offer free trees in effort to expand urban tree canopy

Shade trees and street trees can help beat the heat during scorching temperatures like those seen earlier this summer, so Dayton and the Montgomery County Land Bank are giving away free trees and the city is taking other steps to improve the urban tree canopy.

“Overall, our tree canopy is OK compared to other cities, but we would like to continue to grow it,” said Meg Maloney, sustainability manager with the city of Dayton. “With (a new $2 million) urban forestry grant, we will be working to maintain our current trees (this is always a first priority) and plant more trees in the future, targeting our low-tree canopy areas.”

Free trees, and a new study

The city of Dayton is getting ready for its fall tree planting program. The city is accepting applications from people who want free street trees that can be planted in the right-of-way along their street.

The city planted about 116 trees last year, after planting 35 in 2022 and 100 in 2021, according to city data. On average, it costs about $425 to plant a tree.

“We are working on planting trees in known areas where we have gaps in our tree canopy and based on resident requests,” Maloney said.

Dayton also has been awarded a $2 million federal grant from the Forest Service that will pay for an urban tree inventory and tree canopy assessment. The city commission is expected to approve a resolution accepting the grant on Wednesday.

The grant also will be used to create an urban forestry master plan, Maloney said, and the funding will help implement the recommendations.

Dayton’s tree canopy has shrunk over the years, but it’s unclear by how much since the city hasn’t completed a tree inventory since the late 1980s, Maloney said. She said this funding will help determine where to focus tree maintenance and planting activities.

The inventory and assessment could take 12 to 16 months to complete, while the master plan could take about a year. Implementation likely would occur over multiple years.

Five Rivers MetroParks also was awarded more than $1.4 million from the Forest Service to assess tree and forest inventories, remove invasive plant species, and to plant native trees and shrubs to expand the urban canopy at Spring Run Conservation Area and Possum Creek MetroPark.

Possum Creek is on Frytown Road in southwest Dayton, while Spring Run is west of Drexel.

Land bank tree program

The Montgomery County Land Bank, in partnership with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Forestry, offers free trees to homeowners and renters who live in areas of “inequity.”

The Tree Equity Reforestation Program has planted about 122 trees across the county since launching in the spring of 2023. Plantings take place in the spring and fall.

The tree planting program seeks to reduce energy bills, increase property values, cool and clean the air, filter out water pollution and reduce flooding and the risk of respiratory illness, said Julie Harris, demolition program manager for the Montgomery County Land Bank.

Thousands of people in Montgomery County may be eligible to receive free trees, which can reduce energy costs by about 25% when planted in the right places.

The Land Bank says it has already approved 30 applications for the upcoming fall planting round. Applications for free trees are accepted all year round, but they are due for the fall round by early August.

The net cooling effect of a young, healthy tree is the equivalent of 10 room-sized air conditioners operating 20 hours a day, says the U.S. Forest Service.

Eligible properties are located in certain parts of the county that are designated as areas of inequity, which includes nearly all of Dayton and Harrison Twp. The program is limited to one tree per parcel.

How to get free trees

* The city of Dayton is taking requests for its fall 2024 tree planting program. Requests can be made through the Dayton Delivers app or by calling 937-333-4800. Requests can be made online at

* Information about the Montgomery County Land Bank Tree Equity Reforestation Program can be found at

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