GREENFIELD — They don’t look like much now, but eventually the skinny, barren branches of saplings being planted in Beckenholdt Park will help create a dense forest and canopy over the park’s northern edge.
More than 50 trees, between six and 10 feet tall, were planted at Beckenholdt this week. Several rows of evergreens were planted as a buffer between the park and neighboring homes; the rest were a continuation of the city’s goal to plant one of each of the nearly 100 trees native to Indiana.
“There’s a reforestation area around a couple homes around the park here,” explained Jim McWhinney, maintenance foreman for the parks department. “There’s also going to be an educational-type situation where you can identify the native trees.”
Education has been part of the mission of Beckenholdt Park since it opened in 2009. Walking trails snake along the pond and expansive prairie that was installed to return the land back to its original state. Educational markers were installed over the summer to highlight some of the park’s unique features.
“We want to bring the park back to a natural state,” said Ellen Kuker, parks department director. “Without trees and cover, wildlife wouldn’t exist in that park.”
The trees planted this week were about half of those purchased through a grant from Regreening Greenfield, a local nonprofit organization. The group was awarded an $8,000 matching grant from the Community and Urban Forestry program of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. The grant is funded by the federal Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service as a way to improve tree canopies in cities. The city’s match was covered primarily by in-kind donations from Greenfield Parks Department, Regreening Greenfield and two local nurseries assisting with the project.
Similar grants were awarded to 14 other cities and nonprofit organizations, including Fishers, Indianapolis and Westfield, according to a press release from the DNR. More than $105,000 was awarded throughout the state, and about 1,700 trees will be planted because of the grants.
The grant will also purchase about 50 trees to be planted in Riley Park. David Shaw, Regreening member and local landscaper, said those trees will be planted as a pre-emptive measure to protect the canopy against potential losses in the park from the Emerald Ash Borer.
“We haven’t lost any (ash trees) yet due to the ash borer, but it is moving into the area,” Shaw said. “This is kind of a preparatory move to make sure we have a population growing that will withstand that issue.”
Regreening Greenfield has worked in conjunction with the Parks Department on several projects, including the Pennsy Trail and other plantings.
McWhinney said without Regreening, it would have taken years to afford the trees being planted through the grant.
“It would have taken us a lot longer to do this project,” McWhinney said. “Between donations and grants, this project has moved along five to 10 years quicker than it would have with government funding.”
The trees planted this week are just a small part of what will eventually be hundreds of trees needed to reforest the area and create a wildlife corridor. While the trees are small now, Shaw said a nice canopy will start forming over the next decade.
“This is for our kids and grandkids,” he said.