Branch Out Dallas Program Gives Away Free Trees | Dallas Observer

Time To Leave Summer Behind and Sign Up for a Free Tree

Additional foliage helps to beautify neighborhoods and provide shade. It also reduces energy bills and stormwater runoff. And you can make it happen.
The Branch Out Dallas program allows residents to pick up and plant free trees.
The Branch Out Dallas program allows residents to pick up and plant free trees. Photo by Jan Huber on Unsplash
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Dallasites sweated their tuchuses off this summer, with day after day of extreme heat sparking loads of eco-anxiety. Now that the seasons are (finally) starting to turn, residents can transform that lingering climate change-induced distress into action.

One surefire way to help withstand future sky-high temps is by doing your part to create more shade.

The city recently unveiled its fifth annual Branch Out Dallas program. Until Sept. 30, residents can register for a free 5-gallon tree to pick up at a later date.

There are loads of benefits to boosting your home’s tree collection. Such greenery serves to reduce stormwater runoff, improve air quality and cool down temps.

The main focus of Branch Out Dallas is to increase canopy cover, which is critical for people’s homes, said Karen Woodard, a Dallas Water Utilities city forester.

“Think about it: Most of the homes are built with brick, right?” she said. “Brick absorbs heat, which makes your house stay hotter even longer. So, just a little bit of shade can cut your electricity bill — your air conditioning bill — tremendously.”

Each year, the Branch Out Dallas program gives away roughly 2,500 to 2,600 trees, Woodard said. All you have to do to participate is prove that you live in the city and sign up.

Woodward explained that the program mostly offers large shade trees, but there are alternatives for folks with petite yards. This year you can choose from sycamores, bur oaks and American and lacebark elms; unfortunately, the Shumard oaks and Mexican plums are no longer available, according to the city's website.

Individual homeowners will benefit from more shade, but the broader city should eventually start to see more canopy as well.

Woodard noted that trees can decrease damage from heavy precipitation and stormwater because they slow raindrops’ velocity, which then keeps flooding at bay. Trees can also soak in and hold large amounts of water. All of this acts as a buffer against erosion, she said.

“We're in Texas. Shade is always the No. 1 [most] important. The No. 2 is the effect that it has on stormwater,” Woodard said. “It really does help us in so many different ways.”

What are some of the other ways that trees can help, you might ask? Well, they may work to increase your home’s property value, aid local wildlife and provide a place for kids to play, she said. Plus, they act to reduce pollution by taking in carbon dioxide and emitting oxygen.

“I want the word to get out to everybody in Dallas that the city has this kind of a program and the potential benefits of planting more trees.” – Council member Paul Ridley

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The city has its fair share of urban heat islands, which are pavement-heavy areas with few trees. Concrete and asphalt, in addition to buildings that reflect and hold heat, cause temperatures in these spots to build.

Luckily, trees can help to balance out that effect, too.

If you’re reading this after registration has ended, don’t fret. Woodard said that on the day of this year’s pickup — Saturday, Nov. 4 — some folks will likely have neglected to claim their selection. Latecomers, and residents who want to receive multiple trees, can sign up on-site.

People sometimes assume that trees need lots of care, but Woodard emphasizes that they really require only one thing.

“They just need water,” she said. “The trees that we pick are drought-tolerant, so they don't need tons of water — you’ve just got to water them once a week.”

District 14 Council member Paul Ridley thinks that Branch Out Dallas is a great program. It’s a low-cost way to beautify neighborhoods and to meet certain goals laid out in the city’s Comprehensive Environmental and Climate Action Plan (CECAP). And it “leverage[s] the city's resources by giving the trees to the residents who plant them themselves.

“It has a lot going for it,” he added.

Ridley said there’s been considerable interest in the program since it kicked off. Many residents of his Munger Place neighborhood take advantage of Branch Out Dallas.

He also pointed out that this year’s grueling summer highlights the importance of addressing climate change: “I want the word to get out to everybody in Dallas that the city has this kind of a program and the potential benefits of planting more trees.”

To register for Branch Out Dallas, you:
  • Must live in Dallas
  • Must show a government-issued ID or a city water bill at the pick-up event
  • Can claim only one tree per household
  • Must pick up your bounty between 9 a.m. and noon; delivery isn’t an option
Learn more about the program and the tree pick-up locations by visiting the city’s website.

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