In an effort to replace trees downed by the Easter Sunday tornado, as well as improve water quality across the city, Chattanooga is partnering with Reflection Riding Arboretum and Nature Center to give away free trees to residents through the Growing Resilient Neighborhoods program.
People can pick out trees at the Reflection Riding greenhouse during its operating hours Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. until all 1,000 trees are gone, or attend an event where the program is giving away trees.
The first giveaway will be at the farmers market at the Bethlehem Center on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and others are planned for every Saturday in November at to-be-determined locations.
"November is the perfect time to plant trees," Reflection Riding President and CEO Mark McKnight said.
Initially the idea behind the program was to replace trees on private property in the tornado-damaged area of East Brainerd, but it was expanded to include all city residents because of the benefits trees provide - including saving the city money down the line, city of Chattanooga water quality supervisor Joshua Rogers said.
The cost to the city to initiate the program and purchase the trees is $25,000, he said.
"Trees do a fantastic job of helping with water quality, and there are a lot of economic benefits to trees that a lot of people may not recognize," Rogers said.
Trees can help prolong the life of the city's stormwater system by intercepting rainwater before it comes in contact with the soil, reducing the flow of stormwater going into the system, he said.
Trees also provide shade to help reduce a homeowner's energy costs in the summer, McKnight said.
All of the trees available through the program are native, and native species that are not as well-represented in the Chattanooga area were selected to provide food for a variety of native wildlife, McKnight said.
Growing Resilient Neighborhoods Tree Giveaway
* Saturday, Oct. 31 from 11 a.m. to p.m. at The Bethlehem Center, 200 W. 38th St.* Tuesdays through Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Reflection Riding Nature Center and Arboretum nursery, 400 Garden Road
"Chattanooga is an incredibly biodiverse place," he said, adding that people should want as many different native tree species in the local landscape as possible, since each species of wildlife has its own host plant.
Rogers said trees also help keep local creeks cool for wildlife by providing shade and preventing runoff that would cause the water temperature to rise.
City residents who have paid their stormwater fees can get two trees of their choice, and residents of tornado-damaged areas can get four.
A large part of Reflection Riding's mission is education, McKnight said, so experts will be on hand at each giveaway and daily at the nature center's nursery to help people choose the best trees for their property.
They said they plan to continue the program in the future, increasing the number of species and the number of trees offered each year.
Contact Emily Crisman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6508. Follow her on Twitter @emcrisman.