The National Arbor Day Foundation has recognized Canal Winchester for its commitment to urban forestry with yet another designation as a Tree City USA.

The National Arbor Day Foundation has recognized Canal Winchester for its commitment to urban forestry with yet another designation as a Tree City USA.

This title has been given to the village for 18 years, based on four criteria: The community must have a tree or board department, a tree-care ordinance, a comprehensive community forestry program and an Arbor Day observance and proclamation.

"We commend Canal Winchester's elected officials, volunteers and its citizens for providing vital care for its urban forest," said John Rosenow, chief executive and founder of the Arbor Day Foundation.

One project that helped the community earn the Tree City USA title is its annual free Tree Give-Away Day.

Since 2000, the village has budgeted for giving away different types of trees for residents to plant on their land. This year's event on May 7 is for residents of Canal Winchester only. Starting at 9 a.m., the first 100 residents to visit Stradley Park will get a free tree.

However, Carrie Hoover, Canal Winchester's public affairs director, said anyone interested in obtaining a free tree should plan to be in line much earlier.

"Lines generally form much earlier than that, so if someone were to arrive at 9 a.m., it is not likely that there will be trees left," she said.

Hoover said in the past, there has been confusion about whether the recipients of the free trees have all been residents of Canal Winchester. Even if someone's mailing address says Canal Winchester, they could be from Columbus or Madison Township, so Hoover said everyone should bring along a driver's license or utility bill to prove residency.

This will be the first year a small number of fruit trees will be given away, in addition to the usual selection of ornamental, shade and conifer trees, she said.

Last year, Canal Winchester's Street Tree Advisory Board tried a Front Yard Program where they gave 10 residents a bonus tree to plant in their front yards. The success of that program will be evaluated as the trees grow. The Front Yard Program will not be offered this year, Hoover said.

Canal Winchester urban forester Dick Miller has said he wants canopy coverage in the community to reach 25 percent, an increase of about 5 percent. The board hopes the 100 trees handed out on May 7 will help Canal Winchester achieve this goal.

"Trees have a lot of benefits as far as preventing erosion, helping with clean air and providing shade," Hoover said.