Keeping Trees Watered- Part 3 of 3

NeighborWoods Youth: Keep Indianapolis Beautiful
(Indianapolis, IN)- For the past three years, Keep Indianapolis Beautiful, Inc. (KIB) has operated a Youth Tree Team which helps maintain the trees planted each year on public lands such as schools, parks, greenways and along highways. Using water donated by the local water company, the Youth Tree Team waters 500 trees each week during spring, summer and fall seasons.

Planting trees is just the beginning. Small trees generally require 10 gallons of water upon planting and every week thereafter, and large trees may require 20 gallons or more per week for optimum health. Depending on weather conditions, tree species and location, these figures can significantly increase. Ensuring that trees receive adequate water is labor intensive and is complicated by water shortages and drought conditions in many areas throughout the country.
Several organizations in the Alliance for Community Trees network have developed creative methods both for providing an efficient labor force and for stretching the water supply through conservation and recycling. Three examples follow.
Realizing that maintaining and preserving trees is just as important as planting them, Keep Indianapolis Beautiful in 2005 developed a Youth Tree Team to water, mulch and prune trees planted in public areas under its NeighborWoods program.
As part of the national NeighborWoods program, Keep Indianapolis Beautiful will plant 100,000 trees over ten years in partnership with the City of Indianapolis.
Neighborhood residents agree to water trees planted in their communities for three years as part of the program agreement. However, there are still hundreds of trees that are planted in public settings such as schoolyards, parks, greenways and areas along highways that do not have anyone to maintain them.
Looking for the best way to develop an efficient and effective maintenance program for these trees, Keep Indianapolis Beautiful visited other urban forestry groups and decided to model its program after one developed by Greening of Detroit.
Youth Tree Team
Keep Indianapolis Beautiful’s Youth Tree Team employs 16 high school students and four college students in two teams of 10 each that water, mulch and prune approximately 500 trees each week.
During the summer the Youth Tree Team works Monday through Thursday, primarily watering trees and spends Friday in enrichment programs including financial literacy training, meetings with local landscaping professionals, and trips to local universities that offer urban forestry training. In addition, participants engage in white water rafting, ropes courses and an overnight camping trip.
Youth Tree Team members work only on Saturdays during the fall and spring. There is no program during the winter months.
Youth Tree Team members are paid slightly above minimum wage and receive a free lunch each day.
Keep Indianapolis Beautiful recruits the youth from local high schools and uses a three-tier application process to select team members. In March, applicants tackle an obstacle course that allows Keep Indianapolis Beautiful to determine their ability to work as a team as well as their work ethic and enthusiasm. Those applicants who complete the obstacle course are asked to volunteer for a tree planting in the spring. The third step is a personal interview after the planting.
Keep Indianapolis Beautiful says this selection process has been extremely successful. In the program’s three-year history, no one has been fired or dropped out before completing a season.
Watering logistics
Keep Indianapolis Beautiful collects water for the program from fire hydrants operated by Veolia Water Indianapolis, the local provider. Veolia donates the water to the program so there is no cost to Keep Indianapolis Beautiful.
Keep Indianapolis Beautiful purchased two horse trailers for the program which have been retrofitted with 500-gallon watering tanks. Keep Indianapolis Beautiful’s Youth Corps Director designed a system where a pipe is attached from the tanks leading into four spigots, which are gravity-fed with no motor. Youth Tree Team members fill buckets from the spigots which they use to water the trees.
Keep Indianapolis Beautiful has an 8,000-gallon cistern on its roof where it collects water to maintain the trees on its property.
In addition to weekly watering more than 500 trees, the Youth Tree Team program provides local youth with work experience, skills and an appreciation of nature.
Lessons Learned
1. You do not need to reinvent the wheel. There are many organizations working in urban forestry who can give you advice on developing strategies and programs. Keep Indianapolis Beautiful visited and benefited from the experience of several groups in the ACT network when developing its Youth Tree Team Program. The program is modeled after a program of Greening of Detroit.
2. Do not underestimate the abilities and enthusiasm of young people. Keep Indianapolis Beautiful’s experience with youth has been excellent.
Contact Information:
Andrew Hart
Director of Urban Forestry Initiatives
Keep Indianapolis Beautiful, Inc.
1029 Fletcher Avenue, Suite 100
Indianapolis, IN 46203
Phone: 317-264-7555 ext. 110
Fax: 317-264-7565