Local News

La Porte Works to Modernize Urban Forestry

(La Porte, IN) -  The City of La Porte has a lot of old and unhealthy trees from mass plantings a century or more ago.


Ongoing efforts to create a more vibrant and safer urban forest have received a major shot in the arm from a $1 million federal grant. Those dollars awarded by the U.S. Forest Service will start being put to work soon


“A lot of our trees are older and they’re going to have to be replaced here in the next few years. This is a good start,” said Assistant City Engineer Tucker King.


King said the first of the funds will be spent on updating an inventory from five years ago of trees in city-owned tree lawns that need cutting down or trimming.  About two-thirds of the 400 trees earmarked for removal then have already been taken down by members of the street department over the past two years.


King said the goal is to cut down and trim the rest of the unhealthy trees still left on the previous list and others that might now be seriously ailing beginning late in the summer.


Tree-cutting specialists will be hired with the funds to assist the street department mostly with bringing down problematic trees, such as those with branches hanging above homes and power lines.


Beginning in the fall, King said much of the focus will be on planting anywhere from 500 to 700 new trees in public easements over the three-and-a-half-year lifespan of the grant.


The city’s nickname has long been the “Maple City,” since a majority of the trees planted here a long time ago were maples. The new trees will include maples but also include a wide variety of other species to be strategically planted where they can best thrive without threatening homes and sidewalks. King said trees with smaller root systems that won’t grow as large are the ones that will go in areas too narrow for the bigger trees planted in the past. 


The tree work will happen on the letter and number streets and east of Rose Street; areas where many of the city’s oldest trees exist.


Street Department Director Jeff Batchelor said the oldest trees, due to age and condition, are prone to falling during storms.


Batchelor illustrated how other property damage has been from tree roots wrapping themselves around water and sewer lines, causing them to break or working their way inside and clogging them up. Many sidewalks have also been cracked and heaved up by roots from trees much too large for where they were planted. The idea is to plant new trees in the right locations so problems from the past several decades won’t repeat themselves long into the future.


“It’s going to be a win-win for the city,” he said.


Some of the funds will go toward developing a plan for taking care of the new trees so they stay healthy during the first couple of years when they’re prone to shock from replanting, as well as creating a long-term management strategy for the entire urban forest. King said he would like to be finished with the project before the grant expires so that more funding can be sought to get a jump on the urban forestry work still left to do.


“The City of La Porte has never had an opportunity like this when it comes to funding for our trees. I think it’s going to have a really big impact,” he said.

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