CNHI Indiana Statehouse Bureau
State parks officials looking for creative ways to counter budget cuts have partnered with a national marketing campaign to replace trees lost to a tiny but destructive insect.
The “Plant-a-Tree” campaign would provide money to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources to replace ash trees in state park campgrounds ravished by the tree-killing emerald ash borer.
There’s a hitch. To get the money, the DNR has to convince Hoosiers to go online to the website of the sponsor, the Odwalla fruit juice maker, at www.odwalla.com/plantatree, and cast a vote to plant a virtual tree in Indiana. Every vote cast earns Indiana a free tree.
The program was launched in May but hasn’t gotten much attention yet. Of the more 54,000 visitors to the online site as of Thursday, only about 1,700 were from Indiana, said Ginger Murphy, assistant director for stewardship for the DNR’s state parks and reservoirs.
“We‚ve gotten some coverage but not a lot,” Murphy said. She’d like that to change, both to benefit the state parks and to call attention to the continuing efforts to combat the emerald ash borer, an exotic beetle first detected in Indiana in 2004.
The invasive bug has already done damage to the shade-giving ash trees at four state sites — Roush Lake, Salamonie Lake, Chain O’Lakes State Park and Pokagon State Park — and parks official fear more. The state has spent more $2 million trying to contain its spread.
There are no known proven control measures other than controlling movement of potentially infested lumber and firewood. To aid that effort, the state has teamed with the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to track the bug. Whenever it’s spotted, a team of 10 insect experts is dispatched to the site to verify it and quarantine the area, halting all transport of lumber and firewood.
State park campgrounds are particularly vulnerable, Murphy said, because of firewood brought in by campers.
The Plant-a-Tree campaign is part of a larger marketing effort to aid under-funded state parks across the nation. It was developed by the Government Solutions Group, a national advertising and marketing agency that partners state parks with corporate sponsors that want to target environmentally conscious consumers. The effort has raised several million dollars for state parks since its inception in 2008.
Maureen Hayden is statehouse bureau chief for CNHI’s Indiana newspapers. She can be reached at email@example.com.