Ohio residents can help find the largest specimen of every native and naturalized tree species in the state.
The annual effort is called The Big Tree and has been going on since the 1940s, said Lisa Bowers, who coordinates the program for the Ohio Division of Forestry.
The winning trees are put up against other states, and in 2011 Ohio boasted 10 national champions. That included a 96-foot-tall Cucumbertree Magnolia in North Canton judged to be the biggest in the country.
This year, the Summit County Soil & Water Conservation District has been encouraging its member communities to participate. The activity fulfills a government mandate that stormwater permit holders find ways to involve the public in conservation issues.
“We got the idea from Medina County. They’ve been doing it for quite a while,” said Summit education specialist Sandy Barbic. “It just sounded like a fun way to get public participation.”
Stow is among area communities promoting the contest. City residents can view contest rules and obtain an entry form at www.stow.oh.us.
“We thought it would be a nice family event,” city Public Service Director Jill Janson said. “Families can go out and look for big trees in Stow. I know I’m going to find a tree out there” to nominate.
Outside of Stow, anyone may submit a nomination at http://ohiodnr.com/tabid/4806/Default.aspx.
People are encouraged to look for champion-sized trees in their own backyards, community parks and cemeteries. Large trees more often are found in those areas and not in forests, where trees have much more competition for growth, according to the Ohio Division of Forestry website.
The deadline for submitting for this year’s contest is Aug. 1.
Applicants are asked to take preliminary measurements, but experts will assess the nominated trees to determine their eligibility. Each Big Tree receives a score based on trunk circumference, crown spread and total height.
The national champions list is maintained by American Forests, a conservation organization based in Washington, D.C. The group has been documenting the largest known specimen of every native and naturalized tree in the country since 1940.
Contest submitters do not have to own the property the tree is on, but permission of the landowner should be obtained prior to nomination.
In Summit County, nominees of the winning trees will receive a $25 coupon to be used for the district’s 2014 tree seedling sale as well as a plaque with the winning tree’s statistics.
Barbic said the Summit County agency is a member of the Northeast Ohio Public Involvement Public Education (NEO PIPE), a consortium of soil and water agencies in seven counties that made this year’s theme “Taking Root for Clean Water.”
The Big Tree program supports conservation efforts because it calls the public’s attention to the value of trees, she said. Roots stop erosion, and tree canopies intercept sunlight and keep the ground and water cool.