DECATUR — Between the emerald ash borer and storms, Decatur’s tree population has taken a beating the last decade.
The ash tree population has been devastated, with Josh McGrath, horticulture supervisor for the Decatur Park District, saying there won’t be any more ash trees in Decatur in three years. And many of the city’s trees never did fully recover from the ice storm of 2006.
But thanks to a $25,000 grant from CN Railroad as part of its CN EcoConnexions From the Ground Up program, which is being matched by the Decatur Park District, trees are about to make a comeback.
According to Decatur Parks Foundation Director Jill Applebee, the $50,000 will buy 240 trees that will be planted in parks throughout Decatur. It’s called the Trees for Tomorrow campaign.
CN Railroad's program began in Canada in 2012, then spread to the U.S. in a partnership with America in Bloom. Any city in which CN rail lines go through are eligible, with the goals being to beautify the community, promote public health and provide ecosystems for wildlife, according to the America in Bloom website.
In order for a community to be eligible, it has to provide at least 50 percent of the project's total cost.
Decatur parks make up more than 4,000 acres of greenspace, and the park district has historically prided itself in its park’s trees, particularly those in Fairview Park. Decatur Park District board member Stacey Young said there was no hesitation in matching the grant.
“Beautifying the community is always our goal,” Young said. “And with all the damage that’s been done by disease, insects and storms, this really needed to be done. It was great to receive the gift from CN Railroad, and we were happy to match it to help reforest the parks. It’s definitely necessary.”
Ryan Raleigh, the park district’s director of operations, said a majority of the parks in Decatur will benefit. Because Fairview Park has recently had more than 100 trees planted in it, Raleigh said Nelson Park would be the main beneficiary. Applebee said Hess Park, near where the Redbird Rookies Park was recently installed, would also receive some trees.
“There were a lot of ash trees killed at Nelson, and with the new pool and parking lot going up out there, we have a lot to replace,” Raleigh said. “But there will be new trees planted just about everywhere.”
Raleigh said the park district was still in the process of picking out what trees they’ll be planting, but said it’ll be a variety. He said they’d yet to set a time on when they’d be planted, but it would likely begin sometime this fall.
Applebee said when they’re planted, representatives from ADM, Grow Decatur and City Limitless will be on hand to plant the trees.