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Signal Tree benefits Akron total at least $344 a year, calculation shows

The Akron Beacon Journal writes about the benefits Akron's historical Signal Tree provides to the area and how Davey's Gordon Matthews quantified the benefits.  

By Mary Beth Breckenridge

Published: April 24, 2014 

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How valuable is Akron’s Signal Tree?

Even a tree-care professional had trouble coming up with an answer.

When Gordon Matthews, Akron-area district manager with the Davey Tree Expert Co., set out to quantify the benefits of the fabled tree in preparation for today’s observance of Arbor Day, he ran into a problem. The online calculator he was using wasn’t designed for trees as massive as the 300-plus-year-old bur oak in Akron’s Cascade Valley Metro Park, a tree believed to have served as a landmark that guided Native Americans on an important transportation route.

Besides, the calculator considered only a limited set of factors. Who can put a value on the contribution of such a tree to a city’s history or its residents’ collective pride?

Still, Matthews gave it a go.

By entering some data into the online calculator, he determined that the biggest bur oak he could calculate — one with a trunk that’s 50 inches around, measured 4½ feet above the ground — would provide at least $344 worth of benefits a year. That figure is based on the tree’s ability to absorb 1,021 pounds of carbon dioxide, which might otherwise add to the greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere, and drink up 7,239 gallons of storm water, which might contribute to erosion or carried pollutants to a nearby body of water.

Since the Signal Tree’s girth is more than twice that size, its actual benefits would probably be considerably higher. Matthews measured the tree’s circumference at 127 inches, a figure he arrived at by combining the diameters of the trunk and the two main branches that angle outward from its base — branches that were believed to have been shaped by Native Americans when the tree was just a sapling.

His purpose in coming up with a dollar figure was to draw attention to the ways well-chosen, properly maintained trees improve our properties, our communities and our sense of well-being. He had intended to put a tag on the tree listing its benefits, but he said the Summit County Metro Parks discouraged that because it didn’t want to give people the impression that it’s OK to post signs on its trees. So Gordon’s tagging of the tree was only a symbolic act.

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