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Talent agency funds replanting of tree canopy

Grants of up to $500 to help property owners revive Talent’s urban tree canopy following the 2020 Almeda fire have drawn enough applications that the Talent Urban Renewal Agency is considering adding more funds for the current fiscal year and offering the program again in the next.

“It exploded in January. Folks came out of the woodwork excited to participate in it,” said Jon Legaraz, agency executive director. He has received17 applications for $10,000 available.

Legarza, Talent City Councilman Jason Clark, and Mike Oxendine, chair of the city’s Urban Forestry Committee, saw the need last summer as they walked around town and noted the large number of trees that had been cut off level to the ground due to the fire.

Oxendine’s committee jumped on the suggestion to come up with a plan for the agency’s restoration effort. The committee will play a major role in administration of the program and planting of the trees.

“We decided the best way was to create a grant program that allowed them to pick from a variety of trees and encourage them to plant trees on their property,” said Oxendine. Purchases can be made at local suppliers.

The hope is to have large canopy trees that will provide the most amount of shade and benefit as opposed to small ornamental trees, said Oxendine.

The program is open to both residential and business properties. Applicants must live within the Talent Urban Renewal District boundaries. Trees must be on the city’s approved tree list or approved on a case-by-case basis. TURA will make the final approval, and designs must meet city criteria. The Forestry Committee will make recommendations on applications to the agency board.

Priority will be given for street trees or trees that are visible from the street. The agency will register all trees planted through the grants with the citywide GIS tree inventory.

Grants will be paid upon completion of the work and a final inspection. Work is to be completed by June 30, and grantees will sign an agreement to irrigate and otherwise maintain the plants for two years or until they mature.

Committee members are stressing that locally grown tree stock from local nurseries may have a better chance of survival.

“You want a tree that was grown in the climate you want to plant it in,” said Oxendine, an arborist. “You can bring in stuff from out of the area. It’s not acclimated and they can’t survive the hot, dry summers as opposed to trees that are grown in the valley.”

Several species offer ideal characteristic for the program, said Oxendine.

California black oak, a species native to the Rogue Valley, can live longer than 300 years and has strong wood so is less likely to have branch or stem issues as it matures.

“They are also deep rooters, so they don’t usually impact sidewalks or streets,” said Oxendine.

Valley oak, the largest oak tree in North America, is a native of California but works well locally, said Oxendine. Because it originates farther south, it may do better in hotter, drier climates that have appeared with global warming, he said.

Oak trees with 1.5 caliper inch trunks can be had for about $250 each. Oxendine said the choice of two such smaller trees planted about 25 feet apart, rather than one larger tree, would give more bang for the buck.

Bald cyprus is unique because it’s a deciduous conifer. In spring, summer and fall it looks like a conifer but loses it needles in late fall and is bare all winter, said Oxendine.

“It’s an ideal conifer for an urban setting. It doesn’t take a lot of water, it is strong and fast growing, and it doesn’t shade sidewalks in the winter,” said Oxendine.

The committee will help property owners by bringing trees to a site, along with mulch, fertilizers, deer protection and tools, and provide the labor, if needed.

“We’d like to encourage people to plant their own trees, preferably with our assistance,” said Oxendine. “I think you have more ownership if you get out in the dirt, but for those who can’t we are happy to plant the trees.”

A volunteer program is being created to ensure watering of the trees during the growing season for the initial years.

Talent’s Urban Renewal District is bordered roughly by the railroad tracks on the west, Rapp Road on the south, Suncrest Road to the north and boundary lines east or west of Highway 99 in varying locations on its east side.

A number of inquiries from city residents living outside the boundaries were received. That has prompted city government to consider a similar program for others in the city.

City officials are currently drafting a parallel program for nondistrict residents, said City Manager Jordan Rooklyn. It will be brought to the City Council for a vote and budget appropriation within the next couple of months.

More information and the application can be found at talenturbanrenewal.com/beautification-grant.

Reach Ashland freelance writer Tony Boom at tboomwriter@gmail.com.