|Did You Know: Four Kansas State Champion Trees Can be Found in Johnson County Park and Recreation District Parks?|
The Kansas Forest Service keeps a list all documented state champion trees and four of those, as well as a runner-up American Holly Tree at Antioch Park, are located on JCPRD property.
The state champion Hackberry, celtis occidentalis, is located on the Gary L. Haller Trail in the Mill Creek Streamway Park west of the Shawnee Mission Park Lake Dam. The champion Downy Hawthorn, crataegus mollis, is located off of the Gary L. Haller Trail in the Mill Creek Streamway Park between 111th and 119th streets. The champion Shagbark Hickory, carya ovata, is located in the southeast corner of Antioch Park. This tree was severely damaged in a wind storm in 1998, and more recently lost more branches in the January, 2002 ice storm, but is still hanging in there! The final Kansas champion tree in District parks is a White (or sometimes called Silver) Poplar, populus alba, located right of the path on the northeast side of Shawnee Mission Park’s Shelter #2.
The Kansas Champion Tree Program maintains and periodically publishes a list of the largest trees of the various species in our state so they can be identified, preserved, and enjoyed by all. They include species that are native to Kansas as well as some that have been introduced or have naturalized here. Nominations are judged on a point system established by the American Forests National Register of Big Trees. Points are awarded for circumference of the trunk at DBH (4.5 ft), Height, and Crown or Canopy Spread. The tree measurements added together give a total point score. If two trees have an identical point total, the one with the largest circumference will be the champion.
If anyone knows of a potential state champion tree, JCPRD Forester Kevin Smith can measure it and document the results, then if it appears to be close to the current state champion totals, can submit the tree to be officially measured and recorded by a Kansas District Forester. The nominator will have his or her name on the official list, along with the Tree species, location, and point total. Contact Smith at (913) 441-8669.