Story County to host Operation Releaf event

Staff Writer
Story City Herald

A popular program offering landscape quality trees at a deep discount to Alliant Energy customers living in Story County will be held at Peterson Park East, 55756 180th Street, Ames, from 4:30 to 6 p.m., Oct. 16.

Alliant Energy’s Operation ReLeaf is a program to help Alliant Energy customers save energy in their homes using trees to provide shade during the summer and create wind breaks during the winter. For maximum energy efficiency, shade trees should be planted within 30 feet of the east and west and evergreens should be planted as a windbreak on the north and west of the home.

Through the 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.

“Planting a diverse mix of trees on your property and in your neighborhood will reduce the likelihood of losing a large number of trees to forest health threats,” said Paul Tauke, state forester and chief of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Forestry Bureau.

Tauke said they are encouraging homeowners who do not intend to treat for emerald ash borer to plant a replacement tree within 30 feet of the existing ash tree.

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 Story County finds 26 percent of the trees are maple, 16 percent are ash, 11 percent are oak and 7 percent are crabapple. 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 Story County, species available include hackberry, river birch, Kentucky coffeetree, northern red oak, swamp white oak, serviceberry autumn brilliance, eastern redbud, fringetree and edible apple freedom and liberty.

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

“All trees are purchased through a bidding process to promote local nurseries,” said Tauke. “This is a great way for homeowners to get a quality tree at an affordable price.”

A workshop discussing ways to avoid common mistakes that often result in dead trees will be held at 5:15 p.m. during this tree distribution.

The 30 minute workshop will cover root flare and proper planting depth, correcting encircling roots, proper mulching and watering, correcting pruning to reduce future storm damage, planting around buildings for energy efficiency and emerald ash borer.

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, is funded by Alliant Energy and administered by the Iowa DNR Forestry Bureau with assistance from local partners, like Story County Conservation.