New Haven is home to 2,300 new trees thanks to a weekend project at Koellinger-Yoder Park.

About 30 volunteers showed up Saturday morning, May 1, at the southwest corner of Moeller and Minnich roads. The native trees planted on a 3,000-square-foot plot on the south side of Moeller Road included river birch, shagbark hickory, tulip, hazelnut, sycamore, red twig dogwood and silver maple.

Organizers described the plant as the first reforestation program of its kind in Indiana. More trees will be planted in two adjacent sites in the park over the next two years.

The planting was done in accordance with the Miyawaki Reforestation Project which specifies planting the trees in rows close together (one-foot to one-and-a-half feet apart) and tending them for a three-year period to encourage rapid growth. The volunteers were instructed to plant different species side by side. The saplings, which were provided by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, are expected to grow quickly.

The plot was first cultivated last fall with mulch and leaves from the annual citywide collection. It was then tilled three times this spring in readiness for the planting. Stakes were pounded into the ground on both sides along the east and west ends of the plot to indicate the rows. Participating children were asked to sign their names on the row they worked for posterity.

New Haven Tree Commissioner Jeff Ling pointed out that this experimental planting focuses on natural growth. “We know that not all the trees will make it, but the strongest will pull through and those that don’t will help provide nutrients to those that do,” he said. “We should have a stand of trees here in just three years that will be 20 feet tall.”

According to New Haven Tree Commission chairperson Colleen Simons, “If this method is as successful as it has been in Asia and Europe, we hope that it will become an educational site for those interested in the Miyawaki method.”

The planting was done in recognition of the city being named a 2020 Tree City USA community and to mark National Arbor Day which was April 30. This is the 10th year in a row that New Haven has been recognized for its commitment to effective urban forest management.

Simons stated that in 2012 New Haven received its first National Arbor day Foundation designation as a Tree City USA community. “To obtain the designation, the city had to form a tree commission, formulate a tree-care ordinance, have a forestry program with an annual budget of at least $2 per capita and annually proclaim and observe National Arbor Day,” she said. “We reapply for the designation each year,” she added.

The Indiana Department of Natural Resources awarded a grant to New Haven to prepare an inventory of trees in the city to identify places in need of trees and locate trees at risk. Following the professionally done inventory in 2018, a tree management program was established. The overall goal of the plan is to improve the city’s tree canopy.

The Tree Commission, which was established in 2010, was formed by then Parks Department naturalist Lance Lothamer and present Mayor Steve McMichael. McMichael, who was at the site Saturday, said, “This project is very exciting and just one of the many things going on here that makes this community outstanding.”

Serving on the commission with Simons and Ling are Nick Gorenson, Lauren Krinn and Dave Jones.

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