Minneapolis property owners can enter to win a $25 tree through the city as part of a tree planting effort to better air and water quality and property values.

For one week starting March 13, property owners can enter online to win one of 15 tree varieties, including flowering and fruit trees, to plant on private property. Residents, businesses and nonprofits are eligible to participate.

The city will randomly select 1,000 winners, who can pick up their 5- to 8-foot trees in late May, according to a news release.

"It's just such a wonderful way to help with our city's air-quality issues, our community issues, our energy-saving issues," said Gayle Prest, the city's sustainability director and coordinator for the tree program.

Minneapolis' tree program has sold low-cost trees for 11 years to private property owners in an effort to repopulate the city with greenery. The program began to combat a Dutch elm disease outbreak, Prest said.

Now, the city expects to lose around 200,000 public and private ash trees — one-fifth of the city's urban forest — to the emerald ash borer beetle infestation. The emerald ash borer was discovered in St. Paul in 2009 and spread to Minneapolis a year later, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

"Losing all of those trees could potentially really affect water quality," said Diana Preisen, a community forestry specialist with nonprofit Tree Trust, who explained that trees soak up stormwater. The nonprofit is providing trees for the city's lottery. "And we have a lot of great water sources here to protect."

Along with a tree, the city's $25 price tag includes a bag of mulch. Prest said planting trees is just the first step for those who win them.

"You still have to water them and maintain them, but it is a solid first step for helping everyone see the benefits of trees," she said.

More information about the program is available at www.treetrust.org.

Jessie Bekker is a University of Minnesota student on assignment for the Star Tribune.