Diversify city’s trees, panel urges

By Benjamin Lanka
Ft. Wayne, IN (November 12, 2009)- Mayor Tom Henry wants the city to take steps to protect its large tree canopy, but protecting thousands of trees will not be cheap. The mayor’s tree commission, established on Arbor Day in April, released recommendations last week for improving the city’s forestry program. The recommendations include conducting a study to collect an inventory on all the trees in the city, increase the diversity of trees and establish an ongoing tree advisory board.

Al Moll, city director of parks, served on the committee and plans to present the recommendations to the parks board next week. He said the next step will be critical: devising a plan to implement the recommendations and determine the costs.
The impetus for the commission’s review was the spread of the tree-destroying emerald ash borer and last winter’s ice storm that felled numerous tree limbs. About a quarter of the city’s 60,000 street trees are ash, which will be difficult to protect from the invasive bug. He said the city’s hope is to treat about a third of the trees, replace a third and lose a third.
“I’m not sure we can afford to do that,” Moll said. The city spends close to $1 million on trees annually, including its trimming contract, staff and the planting and replacement of trees, he said. The city has had to reduce its trimming cycle to save money, which caused problems during last winter’s ice storm.
Trees that had been trimmed had far less damage, Moll said.
One of the commission’s recommendations is to diversify the street tree population so no species accounted for more than 10 percent of the population. Moll said that was a good goal, but it will take time to reach.
To help finance forestry upkeep, the commission recommended seeking private donations to help with tree planting and education programs. Moll said evaluating different revenue sources will be critical to a successful tree program. He said he was glad the commission believed the city has run a successful program to date and hoped the recommendations could make for an even better urban forest.
Related Resources:
The Journal Gazette- Diversify city’s trees, panel urges
Trees Indiana