By JOHN KLINE
THE GOSHEN NEWS
Earth Day came a bit early for Elkhart County this year, first with a volunteer tree planting day in Goshen Saturday morning followed by a special Earth Day celebration at the Elkhart County Historical Museum Sunday afternoon.
Tree lovers were out in force across Goshen’s north side early Saturday morning as part of a city-sponsored tree planting and neighborhood beautification initiative that drew more than 40 volunteers to the area.
Despite unseasonably cold weather, the event kicked off bright and early at 8:30 a.m. at St. Marks Church, located just north of the Ind. 15 overpass, where volunteers gathered briefly to discuss tree planting assignments before spreading out across Goshen’s north side.
According to Goshen City Forester and event coordinator Aaron Sawatsky Kingsley, Saturday’s volunteer tree planting day was made possible through a partnership between the city of Goshen and two Indiana Department of Natural Resources grants from 2011 and 2012. One grant, Sawatsky Kingsley said, was to help plant new non-ash trees in the wake of the Emerald Ash Borer infestation, while the other was designed to fund tree plantings in places where their benefits will be most effective.
“The overall goal is to get a diverse planting of hardy native trees into neighborhoods that have historically had large trees, but which are aging rapidly and disappearing,” Sawatsky Kingsley said of the event. “Trees bring important economic benefits that all Goshenites deserve, as well as social benefits like lowered crime rates and enhanced sense of community, not to mention many ecological benefits.”
Volunteers participating in Saturday’s event included individuals from St. Marks Church, North Goshen Mennonite Church, the Goshen College Eco Pax Club, as well as several volunteers from the neighborhoods in which the plantings took place.
Neighborhoods targeted for tree plantings during the event included the Chamberlain Neighborhood from Hilltop Street to Rock Run Creek, North Main Street to Olive Avenue, and the neighborhood from Mill Street to Wilden Avenue and North Main Street to Oakridge Cemetery.
All in all, between 70 and 90 trees were planted Saturday, with tree varieties including Red Oak, Swamp White Oak, Bur Oak, London Planetree, Hackberry, Honeylocust, Kentucky Coffeetree and Red Maple.
According to Sawatsky Kingsley, the cost to purchase trees such as those planted Saturday typically falls around $90 per tree, while cost to have the trees planted typically involves another $40 to $50 per tree.
“The cost of purchasing the trees will be split between the city and the two IDNR grants,” Sawatsky Kingsley said. “Volunteers knock off a huge portion of the remaining cost by planting for free.”
Bristol Earth Day
Earth Day activities continued Sunday afternoon with the 2013 collaborative Earth Day celebration at the Elkhart County Historical Museum.
“Today we’re celebrating Earth Day, which is April 22,” said Ronda DeCaire, superintendent of operations with the Elkhart County Parks Department. “We started out the afternoon with a visit from Mark’s Ark of Auburn, and he brought a variety of animals and wildlife to share with kids and adults, and have them interact and touch them so that they could get that deeper appreciation for our natural world.”
In addition to the live animals, Sunday’s event also featured the group’s first “Teach-In”, where attendees had a chance to hear from local experts on a variety of environmental topics including solar energy, technology, local land trusts and environmental education from multiple cultures.
“The overall goal for the day is to let people come in and connect and celebrate the planet,” DeCaire said. “Hopefully after today they will go home and recycle more, or do some composting in their back yard, or plant one of the seedlings that they were able to pick up today.”
John Sherck, a Bristol organic farmer, was a first time attendee of the annual Earth Day celebration.
“I was kind of invited by a friend who thought this would be a nice place to come and talk about what we do, which is organic growing,” Sherck said. “It’s been a really great day, especially for the kids. There was just so much to learn. It’s just a great event.”
Sunday’s event was made possible through a special collaboration between Elkhart County Parks and the Elkhart Environmental Center, Middlebury Parks, Goshen City Parks, Goshen College and the Woodlawn Nature Center.
Tree City USA
Just in time for Earth Day, the city also learned this past Wednesday that it has once again been named as one of 65 Hoosier cities and towns to be recognized as a Tree City USA designee by the DNR Division of Forestry for outstanding management of their urban forests.
What’s more, Goshen was also named as one of just 16 cities and towns in the state to be awarded the 2013 Growth Award, which exemplifies a higher standard of excellence for urban forestry management.
“In 2012, Indiana’s 65 Tree Cities planted more than 14,500 trees, removed 15,800 and pruned 45,357,” said State Forester John Seifert. “These municipalities are to be commended for utilizing the urban forest as a tool to enhance economic development, environmental health, and quality of life in their community.”
The Tree City USA program, sponsored by the National Arbor Day Foundation and the National Association of State Foresters, has been in existence in Indiana since 1984, when Bloomington met the criteria and became the first Tree City in the state.
To achieve Tree City USA status, communities must first draft and pass a public tree care ordinance, designate a municipal department and tree advisory committee, spend at least $2 per capita for the tree care program, and have an Arbor Day observance and proclamation.
Joining Goshen as Tree City USA designees this year are Elkhart, Middlebury, Syracuse, Nappanee and Wakarusa. Elkhart, Middlebury and Syracuse also joined Goshen as 2013 Growth Award winners.