Harlem Township
Natural Resources and Environment 

Our Ohio Big Tree

For two short years Harlem Township was in state records for having the 7th largest white oak tree in the state of Ohio. The Mailman Oak, a giant tree on Fancher Road, was estimated to be over 300 years old, measured at almost twenty feet in circumference (236 inches), seventy-one feet tall, and had an average spread of about eighty-three feet with a total score of 328 points. Harlem Township Heritage bought a sign to put beside the tree to acknowledge it. And then along came a wind storm with significant damage to the tree. Concerns developed about people traveling under the tree on the road below. After safety studies, the tree was cut down in the fall of 2014 and found to be hollow on the inside – definitely a hazard. We enjoyed our big tree and state recognition while we could.


The Harlem Township Tree Commission works collaboratively with Harlem Township Trustees and the Harlem Township Civic Association in our tree planting efforts. There are two tree planting programs that the Commission operates in the Township:

  • Commemorative Tree Program: The Commemorative Tree Program enables township residents to donate trees for planting in the Harlem Township Park in memory or in honor of an individual, organization, place, or event. A tree of the donor’s choice (from the list approved by the Commission) can be planted in the Harlem Township Park. Each tree is marked with a commemorative plaque to recognize the individual or event chosen by the donor choice. The trees are made available to residents at wholesale cost, are planted by volunteers and are maintained by the Township. Cost of the trees varies depending on the species selected. To date the Commission has planted 42 commemorative trees in the park and there is space available for 12 more trees.

  • Roadside Tree Program: Roadside trees enhance our quality of life in many ways: beautifying roadways, improving our environment, slowing traffic and increasing property values. Both individuals and the entire township enjoy the benefit of roadside trees that are properly selected, planted and maintained. For these reasons, the Harlem Township Tree Commission and the HTCA offer to all residents the opportunity to purchase and plant trees through the Roadside Tree Program. The trees will be delivered by members of the Township Tree Commission and HTCA volunteers. Guidance and assistance with planting the trees will be provided. The property owner will select trees from an approved list of trees that will be provided prior the scheduled planting. All trees must be planted next to the public right of way in a location approved by the Harlem Township Tree Commission. In most instances, the trees must be planted at least thirty (30’) feet from the centerline of the public road and must be in an area where the property owner will be able to water the trees regularly during the first two years. The owner will be responsible for mowing around the trees and all tree maintenance. No warranty is provided on the trees.

Anyone interested in participating in either of these tree programs, pleaseemail Mike Kabler. Requests for participation will be reviewed by the Harlem Township Tree Commission and interested parties will be contacted to discuss the program requirements and the tree selection process.


Trees, People, and the Quality of Township Life
The Harlem Experience

By Lisa Bowers

While many townships watch and lament the steady decline of their rural character, the trustees, employees, and residents of Harlem Township are preserving their pastoral appeal through the management of their community trees. Harlem Township is located in southern Delaware County, and nestled between the rapidly growing areas of New Albany, Westerville and Genoa Township. Like other townships, Harlem suffered the effects of continual tree loss due to increased construction activity, road widening, and improper tree trimming. But, with the cooperative efforts of concerned citizens and the Harlem administration, tree damage has substantially slowed and tree planting has notably increased.

Although the administration was troubled about tree decline, it took a small group of citizens focused solely on this issue to move from apprehension to action. These citizens, after meeting with representatives from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), took their concerns, vision, and plan to the trustees.Soon thereafter, the Harlem Township Tree Commission was formed and the trustees were committed to moving forward with steps to deal with their concerns.

With help from the ODNR Regional Urban Forester, the tree commission's initial activity was to survey the vegetation along all township roads. Diseased and hazardous trees were recorded, as were potential planting sites. A Cost Share Roadside Tree Program, supported by various Tree Commission fundraisers, was developed. This program allows residents to select approved trees and share the cost for their purchase and planting with the tree commission. The commission assists the property owner in determining the location of the trees along their road frontage, as well as delivers and helps plant the trees.

A Commemorative Tree Program was also made available. This program enables residents to purchase a tree to be planted in the Township Park along with a commemorative plaque in memory of an individual or organization. During the past two years, the tree commission has planted 105 roadside and commemorative trees.

Another tree commission initiative was their Big Tree Contest, as part of the state's bicentennial. Residents were asked to nominate big trees in their area as a way to raise awareness and pride in community trees. As a result, 13 nominated trees received recognition plaques.

In addition to helping conduct the initial township tree survey, the ODNR Regional Urban Forester provided a number of other services. To help address proper tree maintenance, a pruning workshop in one of the township cemeteries was held. All trustees were present, along with tree commission members and maintenance personnel. The Regional Urban Forester also consulted on tree selection, tree removal, and zoning language issues.

The Harlem Township trustees and employees have been very supportive of the tree commission's efforts.

They have agreed to provide funds and maintenance staff to help support commission activities. Two American elm cultivars were planted in the Harlem Township Park in recognition of the trustees' support.

What are the take home messages from Harlem's experience? One, while trees enhance air and water quality, increase property values, moderate temperatures, and lessen energy demands, they also provide a deep sense of permanence and place, the type of appeal that makes township living desirable. Two, to ensure these benefits are continually provided, township trees must be properly managed and on par with other township functions. Without administrative support, trees will remain an afterthought, and their benefits will be non-existent. Three, the ODNR Division of Forestry is available to work with your township to help develop a tree care program that matches your needs with your capabilities.

For further information and/or assistance, log onto http://www.ohiodnr.com/forestry/Urban/urbanfor.htm.

Lisa Bowers is an Urban Forester with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources