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Volunteers plant trees at arboretum

More than 80 volunteers helped celebrate Arbor Day by planting trees in an arboretum at Evergreen Park April 30.

“This is something that Huntington residents and visitors will be able to appreciate and enjoy for years to come,” Parks and Recreation Superintendent Steve Yoder said.

“As the arboretum grows and develops, we’ll add new walking trails and an outdoor event center. This is just going to be a great addition to our parks system and a place not only for the community to gather, but also for people to enjoy nature and learn more about Indiana history.”

The arboretum will feature 30 species – all but one of which are native to Indiana. A total of 80 new trees was planted last week.

The trees averaged about 1.5 inches to 2 inches in diameter and ranged from 6 feet to 15 feet tall, depending on the species.

Prior to the public planting, the Huntington Parks and Recreation Department and Yellowstone Landscape worked to plot and dig holes at precise locations selected to promote the trees’ healthy growth and development. They marked the spots by placing a flag where the hole should be dug.

As the trees arrived, labels attached to their trunks identified the species and corresponded with the flagged locations.
Yellowstone Landscape and the Parks and Recreation Department planted some of the trees, but left plenty for  volunteers who wanted to be part of the project to plant, too.

Some volunteers dug holes, placed the young trees and cut off the protective burlap sacks from the trees’ roots. Others filled in around the freshly planted trees with soil and surrounded them with mulch.

Huntington Mayor Richard Strick was among those on hand at the tree planting. At the start of the volunteer event, he read a proclamation to mark the arboretum’s beginnings and to officially declare the day as Arbor Day in Huntington.

The proclamation highlighted the environmental benefits a healthy tree population provides to communities that are proactive in planting and caring for them.

Some of these include preventing soil erosion, regulating temperatures, reducing heating and cooling costs, cleaning the air and providing habitat for wildlife.

Thanks to its commitment to caring for Huntington’s tree canopy, the city has been recognized by the national Tree City USA program for the past 26 years.

“Through the arboretum and other investments in Huntington’s tree canopy, we will continue to care for our surroundings and make sure Huntington remains a great place to call home for our kids and future generations,” Mayor Strick said.

Planning for the arboretum started last summer, and the city was awarded a Community and Urban Forestry Assistance (CUFA) grant of $12,880 toward the project. CUFA is administered by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and utilizes federal funding.

Members of the Mayor’s Advisory Council on Environmental Stewardship (MACES) played key roles in taking the initial idea for an arboretum from concept to reality.
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ACES task force member Kathryn Lisinicchia worked with Hannah Staley, a City of Huntington intern and environmental studies student at Indiana University, to apply for the CUFA grant in 2021.

Dr.   Collin  Hobbs,  another MACES member and professor of biology and environmental science at Huntington University, helped select the species to include and mapped locations in the arboretum where each tree would be most likely to thrive.

The arboretum repurposes underutilized space in Evergreen Park where two ball fields were formerly located.  

Last fall, the Parks & Recreation Department began preparation work for the arboretum by removing old light fixtures and leveling the ground.

Along with the 80 trees, signage will be installed throughout the park to identify the tree species and provide educational information about them.

The city plans  to apply for accredited arboretum status at a future date, which would make it a unique offering in Northeast Indiana. The nearest accredited arboretums to Huntington are located in the Indiana located in Valparaiso, Richmond and Bloomington.

The arboretum is open to visitors during park hours from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. It is available for field trips by schools and other groups. Evergreen Park is located at 1370 Evergreen Road in Huntington.