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The Journal Gazette

  • Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette Hunter Waggoner, 10, helps Madalyn Sade-Bartl layer mulch around a tree Saturday at Franke Park. They are with Cub Scout Troop 3081 from Churubusco.

  • Rosa Salter Rodriguez | The Journal Gazette Tony Gensic and Jadie Page plant a sugar maple Saturday at Franke Park at the 17th annual Great Tree Canopy Comeback.

Sunday, October 21, 2018 1:00 am

Tree planters lay down roots in 4 local parks


They came. They dug. They planted.

About 200 volunteers showed up Saturday morning to aid efforts to keep the Fort Wayne area green – leafy green, that is.

Leaders of the Great Tree Canopy Comeback, in its 17th year locally, selected Fort Wayne's Franke, Justin Study and Vesey parks and New Haven's Klotz Park to receive plantings of fresh young trees.

Allen County's Fox Island Park was the site of a new activity for the event – removing Japanese honeysuckle. The invasive species crowds out native plants more beneficial to local ecosystems. 

In Franke Park, where Tom Waggoner and his daughter Jordan, 16, brought Cub Scout Troop 3081 from Churubusco, about 40 trees were put in the ground.

Holes for the plantings were done in advance by parks department employees, who were slated to stake and mulch the saplings later.

This year, planting included a new wrinkle – a process that made root balls easier to access by peeling off a fabric-like covering, Tom Waggoner said.

“Our group did at least 10 (trees),” he said. “My family and I have done this for years, and we're in Cub Scouts and trying to get them involved.”

Carol Cavell, 64, of Fort Wayne, helping marshal volunteers at Franke, said “new technology” called a root-trapper bag gives trees a better chance of surviving.

“It (the bag) is not cut off, and the roots are healthier,” said Cavell, a member of event sponsor Friends of the Parks and executive director of Trees Indiana.

“This was an experiment for us. We'll know in a couple of years how they fare,” she said of the new-concept saplings.

Among the species planted in Franke were red oaks, redbuds, hawthorns, Midwest native chinquapin oaks and sugar maples, one of which was planted by Jadie Page, 26, and Tony Gensic, 65, both of Fort Wayne.

Page, a first-timer, said she brought her 9-year-old son to the event after he saw a sign advertising it during a trip to the zoo on Friday and told her he wanted to participate.

Gensic, on the other hand, is an old hand. He said he has planted trees in McMillen and Foster parks and along the Rivergreenway trail system in other years as a tree captain.

“I'm a tree colonel now,” said Gensic, a U.S. Marine Corps retiree, with a laugh. “I promoted myself.”

Trees come to the natural end of their lifespan and have to be replaced, and some die of other causes, according to Cavell.

Gensic said that's one reason he thinks the effort is worthwhile. “The trees we've planted along the trail in Foster Park – they survived,” he said.

“Even with that flood we had (in 2016), they survived, even though their roots were underwater for a long time. They survived.”