History of the Ohio Street Tree Evaluation Project (OSTEP)
Davis Sydnor and Jim Chatfield, The Ohio State University
Drew Todd and Dan Balser, Ohio Department of Natural Resources
Jim Chatfield, Dan Balser, Davis Sydnor, Drew Todd
Using data from a 1971 research study, the Street Tree Evaluation Project (STEP) examined how selected urban plantings performed over several decades. The purpose is not only to aid in selecting the most useful trees under varying conditions, but also to show how trees, over time, affect street character. This document helps fulfill a project initiated by some of Ohio's earliest urban forestry practitioners.
Three decades ago, Dr. L.C. Chadwick of The Ohio State University, and Mr. M.W. Staples of the Davey Tree Expert Company had and idea. They suggested a comprehensive study of new tree introductions as a means to determine their suitability for urban environments. Their proposal included a 10-year evaluation study involving the planting of tree species and cultivars at the Ohio Agricultural and Research Development Center (OARDC). This became the Wooster Shade Tree Plots. The evaluation of existing street trees in five Ohio cities (Cincinnati, greater Cleveland, Columbus, Toledo, and Wooster) was another facet of the original study. Comments and growth measurements were provided between 1967 and 1970 of the city street plantings. This street tree data was compiled by Dr. Kenneth Reisch and published in the OARDC bulletin entitled Case Histories of Several Tree Species and Cultivars at Selected Sites in Five Ohio Cities.
The 1971 Reisch document reported on 53 selected species and cultivars planted in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s. Each site consisted of five trees, with data on tree height, trunk caliper, and branch spread recorded each of the four successive years, except for the Columbus sites that were added in 1969. The researchers included the location (city, street, and address) of each site, as well as an annual photographic record.
This 27 year old document and the accompanying photographs produced by Dr. Reisch and project chairman Richard Abbott is a treasure of information for city foresters, nursery managers, landscape architects, city planners, tree commissions, and community administrators. Not only did the authors evaluate the growth of trees planted in the rights-of-way, but they also identified their location for future observations.
The intention of this current project is to update the tree measurements and photographs published in 1971 to aid in future urban forest management decisions. A quarter century's worth of change can be highly instructive.
At each of the 96 revisited sites tree height, caliper, and spread were recorded, along with planting site dimensions. Because an accurate comparison of 'then' versus 'now' plantings was a major consideration, the STEP document format is quite similar to its 1971 counterpart. As in the original document, comments have been included. The pages have been arranged in the same order as the 1971 publication (alphabetically by scientific name). All of the 1971 statistics and comments are included with the 1997 data.
The original evaluations, started in 1967, were based on five trees per site using the center tree as the address reference point. The five trees constituted the original subset of the planting on which data was taken. The 1967, 1968, 1969, and 1970 figures were the average of the five trees in the original subset or those remaining. By 1997, not all of the trees in the original data subset survived. Data was generally based on four trees unless all five trees in the original subset survived. Rarely was the original street tree planting limited to just the five trees in the data subset. Therefore, when less than four trees in the original data subset were present, measurements from adjacent tress in similar circumstances were taken to give a more accurate statistical representation of that planting. In some instances data had been taken on one, two, or three trees since that was all that remained, or the original trees were in different circumstances than the remaining trees. The number of trees represented in the 1997 data is given in the 1997 comments for each location.
The number of trees that have survived since the original planting was also considered. To arrive at a meaningful percentage, the number of trees remaining in a planting site were divided by the estimated number of trees that had been in the original planting. City foresters were often helpful in estimating the size of the original planting. Although estimating survival was difficult, the survival percentage can be useful for planning.
The authors of this publication wish to thank those individuals and groups that made our effort possible and enjoyable. Initially we want to recognize those early visionaries for addressing a need with their 1971 publication. The urban forestry community should be grateful to Dr. L.C. Chadwick, Dr. Kenneth Reisch, Mr. M.W. Staples, and Mr. Richard Abbott and the Ohio investor-owned utilities who funded the original concept for twelve years (1965-1977).
Collecting the 1997 data was infinitely more enjoyable with help from a number of city foresters. We wish to thank Jennifer Gulick of Cincinnati and her staff, Barry Weber with the City of Columbus, and Pat O'Brien in Toledo. We also want to recognize those state urban foresters who assisted in data collection, Alan Bunker, Barb Fair, Lola Lewis, and Cathy Smith.
A great deal of energy was expended to retype the 1971 document to fit into the new format. Thanks go to Pat Polczynski and Mary Murnieks with OSU's School of Natural Resources and Charles Pitts a summer urban forestry intern from Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Jim Hoskins with OSU's Department of Horticulture and Crop Sciences is also to be commended for putting this material on the internet.
Of course, this project was not without cost. We are collectively appreciative of the USDA Forest Service for providing the necessary funding to bring this information to you.
Following the dissemination, review, and discussion of this information, a decision will be made as to if and how this research should continue. Should you have a comment or opinion, please contact one of the authors.