WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Trees planted in 17 areas identified as heat islands would cool down extreme temperatures by providing shade and allowing for more water in the atmosphere.

The added trees would also provide more oxygen to our air. There have been multiple factors that have hurt the tree canopy in Wichita, and city leaders hope this plan will safeguard them. 

The project is aimed at creating change 50 years down the road. 

“The best time to plant a tree was 10 years ago, but the second best time is today,” said Wichita City Council member Jeff Blubaugh. 

City leaders are working with new nonprofits like ICT Trees, different from the previous one with the same name, to encourage residents and businesses to plant trees to aid in the effort. 

“We’re taking care of existing trees and making sure we’re replacing trees when they are decayed or turned out, and the same thing as our city continues to grow. We need to make sure we’re putting out those new trees and shrubs,” Blubaugh said. 

Elm Tree Disease wiped out a large portion of Wichita’s tree canopy in the 1970s. Protecting against another outburst could be crucial. 

“In fact, we really want to be promoting people to plant a diversity of trees, and that way, if we have diseases or insects that come through, we don’t lose our entire canopy with one outbreak,” said Matthew McKernan, Sedgwick County Extension ornamental horticulture agent.

He says extreme weather events have done harm as well. 

“We’ve experienced very wet springs or periods of flooding and then sharp transitions into droughts, and so these extreme temperature changes and extreme changes in environmental changes are really hard for trees to adapt to,” said McKernan. 

The Wichita City Council is working with the Sedgwick County Extension Office to make a difference. 

“It’s important that we’re taking a leadership position on this, so people aren’t just going out and putting whatever tree in the ground. We can see what the preferred list is and foster that,” said Blubaugh. 

The city plans to implement the updated tree policy in 2024. For trees recommended for planting, visit the extension office’s recommendations.