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The 2008 Great tree Canopy Comeback

Volunteers needed to help plant trees in five parks across town

By Michael Summers


Fort Wayne Reader


The bad news: Fort Wayne Parks are losing their trees.

Several years ago, Friends of the Parks and the Cultural Landscape Committee of the Fort Wayne park board commissioned a Cultural Landscape Report. They found that three of Fort Wayne’s major parks — Lakeside, Memorial, and Swinney — had lost nearly 50% of their tree canopy since 1949.

The (sort of) good news: this loss of the trees isn’t necessarily due to pollution or any of the other environmental hobgoblins we often hear about. Most of it was age and lack of care. “Because of lack of funding, parks didn’t have the money that would have gone to the upkeep, care, and replanting of the trees,” says Michelle Briggs-Wedaman, the community awareness chairperson for Friends of the Park, a non-profit, volunteer group that promotes the stewardship and celebration of the historic and recreational resources of the parks and public spaces of Fort Wayne and Allen County.

Friends of the Parks, working in cooperation with the Park Department, has made it its mission to do what they can to bring them back with their annual Great Tree Canopy Comeback. The 2008 edition takes place Saturday, November 1 at 10 am. The parks are McCulloch, Moody, Rockhill, Study, Swinney and Fox Island in Fort Wayne, and Havenhurst Park in New Haven.

Over 1400 trees have been planted in the parks since the program started in 2002. “That’s essentially a drop in the bucket, but we say that every tree matters,” says Briggs-Wedaman.

Volunteers are needed, but no tree-planting experience is necessary. The large holes needed for the 6’-8’ tall trees will be dug in advance by Parks and Recreation Department. All the tree-planting volunteers will have to do is position the trees, fill in the dirt, and rake it smooth with mulch.

Afterwards planting tress, volunteers from all seven parks will meet at Swinney Park from 11:30 - 1 for a picnic, pick up their free t-shirt (adults) and free patch (kids) and enjoy fun activities and live musical performances at Swinney Park’s new pavilion. (Volunteers are responsible for their own transportation to and from Swinney Park from their planting location.)

The Great Tree Canopy Comeback has brought out droves of volunteers in its previous events. “It’s something we can all get our heads around: the big, beautiful trees are going to fall someday, and we need to make sure we have trees coming up in the ranks,” Briggs-Wedaman says.

Briggs-Wedaman, explains that Friends of the Parks goals are part historic preservation, part environmental preservation, and part economic development. “As Fort Wayne and Allen County tries to reinvent itself, one of the things that’s so important is the overall issue of how you use your public lands,” she says. “It’s one of those umbrella issues. When experts talk about the overall appeal of healthy cities, parklands, green space, and ‘walkability’ are at the top of the list. We’re only starting to hear dialogue about this in the public arena, and it’s so important.”

Indeed, current thought among experts in city planning says that parks aren’t just for recreation anymore, and trees and landscaping offer far more to a community than just their aesthetic benefits. Parklands and green space play a key role in issues such as water run-off and sewer treatment. Most importantly, they are integral to a city’s identity.

The Friends of the Parks wants to draw attention to all these issues, as well as the historic significance of our parks system. Fort Wayne has an impressive legacy when it comes to park and public space layout. Our parks and boulevards system was designed by George Kessler (1862 - 1923), one of the foremost figures in city planning and landscape design. Rudisill Boulevard was one of the central corridors in Kessler’s system. He also had the concept for Headwaters Park, six decades or so before the city figured out that flood lands aren’t a good place to put things like buildings, and resurrected the park idea.

Great Tree Canopy Comeback
Saturday, November 1, 2008, 10am
McCulloch, Moody, Rockhill, Study, Swinney and Fox Island in Fort Wayne, and Havenhurst Park in New Haven.

Volunteers are asked to sign up in advance. Contact Suzette Brown at (260) 422-3232 or via email at sbrown2430@comcast.net

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