News From Terre Haute, Indiana

March 25, 2012

Nature Makeover

300 volunteers brave muddy mess to plant trees in Maple Avenue Nature Park

Jane Santucci
Special to the Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Terre Haute’s Maple Avenue Nature Park at 500 Maple Ave. — located on the site of a former dump — got a makeover Saturday morning.

The city’s newest park has been transformed into a home for 64 large shade trees, 25 dogwood trees and 21 small trees. The trees sit along the trail to provide shade in the summer.

“This is a great addition to our park system and these trees are going to make a huge difference,” Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett said.

More than 275 volunteers from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, Indiana State University, Walmart South employees and a team of Terre Haute Parks Department city employees met up to get dirty at 8:30 a.m. The volunteers arrived upon a site which received a coat of top soil, added late last week. The rain showers on Thursday and Friday turned the fresh top soil into a mud pit.

“People’s feet are sinking into the ground, people might be losing shoes, but it is not going to stop us. I would plant 10 more trees if I could,” Rose-Hulman sophomore Cory Pardieck said.

Rose-Hulman sophomore Emily Moeller of Cincinnati, Ohio, helped to plant trees last year. She learned to not wear her nice sneakers, as they could get dirty. This year she came dressed in flip flops. By the end of the afternoon the mud covered her legs and her flip flops snapped. 

“I actually planned ahead to wear flip flops. I figured wearing flip flops I wouldn’t have to clean up much,” Moeller said.

TREES Inc. officials said the volunteers are the most important part of the tree planting process.

 “Without their help this would not occur. Hopefully when these kids come back to Terre Haute in 10, 15 years from now for some type of class reunion or homecoming they will be able to drive by the trees that they planted and say they were involved in getting that tree in the ground and helping it grow,” TREES Inc. board member Brian Conley said.

“It is leaving your legacy in a way, people will enjoy these trees for years and years. It is neat,” Moeller said.

While digging holes to plant the trees in, volunteers found large rocks, bricks and remaining rubbish from the old dump site.

“It was an area where people dumped all kinds of stuff. It has been covered over for years and we are getting to uncover a lot of it,” Bennett said.

For more than 20 years TREES Inc. has been conducting an annual tree planting day. In the past, they have coordinated plantings along Brown Avenue, Seventh Street, in Rae Park and at Terre Haute North and South high schools. Part of TREES’s mission is to restore the city’s canopy. Every year the city loses around 300 street trees due to various accidents and weather. TREES Inc. in conjunction with the city of Terre Haute replants about 100 trees a year.

“For every street tree that dies we would like to be planting two. That would be our ultimate goal, but the TREES Inc. and city budget doesn’t allow it,” Conley said.

If TREES Inc. did not facilitate an annual tree planting the amount of trees lining city streets would be scarce.

“If nobody is replacing our trees then we would have no trees in our tree rows in 40-50 years, because the average street tree has a life span of about 40 years,” Conley said.

When a city loses trees, they lose more than their beautiful canopy. Trees:

• clean the air.

• absorb water.

• clean and absorb storm water runoff.

• reduce cooling costs for homes and businesses.

It takes three years for a tree to become established. In the first three years a new tree must be monitored and watered. The trees planted at the Maple Avenue Nature Park will have a drip irrigation system installed to help with the watering. The drip irrigation system will be monitored for the next three years as part of the tree purchasing contract for the tree planting.

“TREES Inc. also goes back after five years the trees have been in the ground and limbs up the trees so that the trees will grow tall and not just spread out,” Conley said.

For more information about TREES Inc., visit

Jane Santucci is an environmental freelance writer for the Tribune-Star. Santucci is a proud volunteer with TREES Inc. and Our Green Valley. She also sits on the Wabash Valley Goodwill Industries Board of Directors. Share your environmental stories with her at