News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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March 4, 2010

Tree lovers rooting for new branches

Tree planting set later this month

TERRE HAUTE — Near month’s end, at least 150 volunteers will embark on the planting of 100 shade trees along Terre Haute’s historic Ohio Boulevard to help restore a residential tree canopy

The effort is a partnership between the City of Terre Haute and Trees Inc., a nonprofit organization celebrating 20 years of regreening and beautifying the city through the planting of trees.

City officials early this week awarded a $20,050 contract to Hank Metzger Landscape Inc. to provide 100 shade trees. Specifically, the planting will include 25 red oak trees; 15 scarlet oaks; 20 shumard oaks; 20 halka variety of gingko trees; 10 accolade elm trees; and 10 bloodgood variety London plane trees.

“A London plane tree is basically a well-behaved sycamore tree,” said Terre Haute City Forester Bill Kincius. “It is has less disease problems and tends to resist some problems of sycamores, which have problems with pollution tolerance.”

The city sought trees that provide a more dense wood, which is not prone to storm damage; resists infection and decay; is tolerant of salt used to clear streets during winter months; and trees that do not have “messy” fruits or seeds. The city also sought to use as many native trees as possible.

“It’s not easy being a street tree. There is no perfect street tree, but we want trees that are more maintenance-free,” Kincius said.

The city is covering $12,000 of the cost of the planting, Kincius said.

The planting will be done on March 27, starting at 9 a.m. The city has between 120 and 130 sites at which to plant 100 trees, Kincius told members of Trees Inc. on Thursday during its monthly meeting.

Site checks on where trees will be planted will be conducted from March 15 to 21, said Brian Conley, a member of Trees Inc. Teams will use metal probes to ensure that a proposed site has no stump remains that would hinder digging a hole for a new tree, Conley said. In addition, a company will check for possible underground utilities, Conley said.

The majority of volunteers to plant trees are students at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, but also include students from Indiana State University, St. Mary-of-the-Woods College, as well as members of Trees Inc. and the city parks department.

These volunteers are trained in professional techniques of planting a tree, Kincius said. That is one reason the city has partnered with Trees Inc., as it saves the city money on hiring a professional contractor. Volunteers may take longer, but are trained to provide the same planting, Kincius said.

Currently, there are 496 trees along Ohio Boulevard from 19th Street to Fruitridge Avenue. The average diameter of those trees is 17 inches. “If each existing tree trunk were lined up together, it would equal more than two football fields,” Kincius said.

“There are also more than 400 trees along the boulevard that are 30 feet or taller,” Kincius said. That’s important, as a healthy 30-foot tree is estimated to create 260 pounds of oxygen annually.

“Two trees create enough oxygen for one person a year. The trees along Ohio Boulevard create an estimated 52 tons of oxygen a year, enough for 200 people a year,” Kincius said.

In addition, he said, trees along Ohio Boulevard absorb about 24 tons of fine particulate pollution each year and intercept an estimated 130,000 gallons of stormwater each year. “Over a five-year period, that is enough to fill an Olympic-sized pool,” Kincius said.

Also, a study from the University of Washington shows that the value of real estate is 6 to 9 percent higher if a neighborhood has a good tree cover, and mature trees in high-income areas boost real estate values 10 to 15 percent, Kincius said.

Ohio Boulevard extends from 19th Street to Fruitridge Avenue, and is actually city park land that extends to Deming Park. In 1989, the Ohio Boulevard-Deming Park Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was designed in 1920 by George Kessler, a well-known landscape architect.

The tree canopy, however, has slowly eroded as trees have been lost to weather or time.

Prior to his work in Terre Haute, Kessler in 1908 prepared the City of Indianapolis’ master park plan, including Fall Creek parkway, White River parkway, Brookside parkway and Pleasant Run parkway, plus designed many other city park systems in Cincinnati in 1906, Denver in 1907 and Oklahoma City in 1910.

Kincius said while Kessler’s plan includes trees, the original type of trees will not likely be used, as foresters now have much more knowledge of what type of trees work best in an urban area.

“I believe [Kessler’s] vision was to be a boulevard and be tree-lined. Our guiding principle is we are filling in the holes in the canopy. What they knew about urban forestry back in the 1920s is different than what we know now. We have a lot better understanding of how trees work, a better appreciation of native trees and what trees are less prone to storm damage,” Kincius said.

“Hopefully 20 years from now, we will see gaps in that original plan filled in with a canopy over the boulevard,” Kincius said.

Howard Greninger can be reached at (812) 231-4204 or howard.greninger@tribstar.com

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