Officials exploring tree plan

A team of city leaders and community advocates have begun developing a coordinated plan to manage the city’s tree population.

While discussions are in the early stages, the goal is to create formal guidelines for planting new trees and properly replacing ones that need removed.

“At some point, we’ll want to put some things in city code that formally says this is what we need to do, the species we need to plant at certain areas,” said city operations director Dale Petrie, who represents the mayor’s office on the exploratory committee.

Crawfordsville Main Street president Sue Lucas approached the city with the idea last year, as a way to keep track of new trees that will be added through the Stellar projects. Mayor Todd Barton was highly supportive of the idea, she said.

Lucas was also inspired by input at various public meetings.

“We kept hearing they wanted street trees back in the downtown area,” said Lucas, who is also president of Sustainable Initiatives of Montgomery County.

The committee began meeting at the start of the year to consider options. Along with Lucas and Petrie, the group includes representatives from city planning and community development, parks and recreation and the street department.

Crawfordsville Electric Light & Power and Wabash College are also involved. The group is seeking advice from two professional arborists.

The committee hasn’t determined whether the plan will just cover downtown, or include the rest of the city, parks and trails.

“There are a lot of pieces to this that we’re still trying to navigate through,” said street commissioner Scott Hesler.

A tree inventory will help form the plan and pinpoint where certain species should be planted.

“We know more about these things in 2017 then we did in 1990 or even 2000,” Lucas said. “We know the trees to avoid that don’t work well, and there’s just an incredible body of evidence out there and resources to pull on.”

In 2005, the parks and recreation department commissioned an urban forestry management plan that included a partial inventory and recommendations on how to proceed. The plan was never implemented, but is helping guide the committee’s discussions.

The committee is also looking at research that shows tree-lined main streets are good for business.

A University of Washington study found consumers prefer to shop at places with large, fully-grown street trees. Consumers were also willing to pay more for parking in shaded business districts, according to the study.

“People are drawn to those green margins,” Lucas said. “They want to hang and they want to linger, versus a big asphalt parking lot where you’re just, ‘I’m in, I’m out.’