TALLMADGE: For the first time, two tree species more commonly found in warmer southern Ohio are being planted in a Summit County park.
Citing global warming, Virginia pine and river birch trees are going into the Tallmadge Meadows Area of the Munroe Falls Metro Park, along with native Ohio species, said Michael Johnson, chief of natural resources for Metro Parks, Serving Summit County.
A total of 89 Virginia pine and 25 river birches are being planted off North Avenue (state Route 91) in the park district’s biggest tree planting in decades, Johnson said.
The Virginia pine and the river birch are expected to be able to survive in Northeast Ohio and will likely move northward in the future because of climate change so it just makes sense to plant them locally now, he said.
A reason to plant them now is those trees are likely to do well and some native plant species that would ordinarily be planted might not do as well in the future, he said.
The plantings are considered “assisted migration” since the park district is giving a helping hand to species that are likely to move here in the future anyway.
“The fact is that global warming is happening,” he said. “It is real. And we can’t stop it. The question is how can we help the ecosystem adapt. How do we adapt to climate change?”
The plantings represent “a first step,” Johnson said. “It’s a little jump, not a big jump. But it’s something we feel that we need to do.…We want to assist in that process.”
The park district, he said, is starting to rethink what it calls native plants. The list here is being expanded to include plants more commonly found now in central and southern Ohio, he said.
These plants are already moving to the north due to climate change and changes in growing seasons. Birds and other animals are also adapting.
The planting of nearly 1,200 trees at Tallmadge Meadows started Tuesday and will continue into early next week. The trees range in size from 1.5 feet to 11 feet with roots balled and covered in burlap.
Twelve other species being planted include white pine, cedar, sugar maple, tulip tree, beech. sassafras, black willow, butternut hickory, black gum and three species of oak.
Seeds of oak, hickory, beech and walnuts collected in the park district are also being planted.
Two three-person crews with back loaders equipped with forklifts moved the trees within the park.
The trees — shipped from Tennessee — are being planted along the park’s western and southern boundaries to help create a buffer of trees to separate the park from North Avenue to the west and the Summit County Fairgrounds to the south.
It will likely be six years before the tree buffer is fully developed, Johnson said.
The Virginia pine are being planted next the parking lot and along a small ridge next to the entrance road at Tallmadge Meadows.
They range from 4.5 feet to 9 feet in height.
Johnson said he really likes the Virginia pine. “It’s a little scruffy, but it’s really a neat tree. I like its shape. It’s a beautiful tree. It’s not as full and it lets light through.”
The tree is not widely used in local landscaping.
The river birch is widely used as an ornamental in landscaping and is an attractive tree, he said.
The park district’s past policy has been to plant only native species found in Northeast Ohio and that would have excluded both Virginia pine and river birch. But both species can be found growing in Summit County, he said.
Adding the tree buffers on the west and south will provide a big boost to the Tallmadge Meadows Area, once the site of the old Summit County Home, Johnson said.
The addition of the trees will improve the park’s aesthetics and the addition of native tree species will boost the park’s ecology, he said.
The park district intends to add a small prairie on the eastern edge of the 287-acre park that was acquired in late 2006. The area has been mowed and treated with herbicides. It is scheduled to be planted next spring.
Part of the park will be a managed meadow and will be mowed. The area to the west of that tract will be permitted to grow into scrubby trees and brush, a step in natural succession to forest, he said.
The park district has invested about $7,000 in the new trees plus about $3,000 on the prairie tract. Park staffers are providing the manpower.
In a related development, the park district is seeking volunteers on Monday to help collect and plant walnut nuts at Tallmadge Meadows.
The volunteers are needed from 9 a.m. to noon to collect seeds along the Indian Spring Trail at Munroe Falls Metro Park, 521 S. River Road, Munroe Falls.
Advance registration is required. To volunteer and for more information, contact park biologist Marlo Perdicas at 330-865-8057, ext. 226 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bob Downing can be reached at 330-996-3745 or email@example.com.