EVANSVILLE — A local government board on Tuesday unanimously approved a proposal to expand tree planting across the community over the next few years.

The Solid Waste Management District Board, is a joint city-county entity, voted 6-0 for a plan to spend $75,000 annually on placing more trees in public right-of-ways.

Vanderburgh County Commissioner Cheryl Musgrave, Evansville City Councilor Missy Mosby and Vanderburgh County Councilor Mike Goebel developed the idea.

The Solid Waste Management District's funding comes from fees collected on items dumped at the landfill. The budget covers specialized community recycling days for items such as electronics and chemicals.

Musgrave said there's room in the district's budget for a tree-planting program. She estimated the district's cash balance is $600,000.

The annual $75,000 tree planting program has a few different planks.

* It would strive to repopulate trees in neighborhoods with low tree canopy. Musgrave said the idea is to start on major east-west roads such as Washington Avenue, Covert Avenue, Pollack Avenue and Riverside Drive, then move to north-south roads like Vann Avenue, Boeke Road and Weinbach Avenue.

* Neighborhood associations may apply for grants for trees. "They could identify public property within their neighborhood, and we’ll have a set amount of money that would be the grant pool," Musgrave said.

* Schools or youth organizations also may apply for grants, enabling local kids to get involved in planting trees. Goebel, a Mater Dei High School teacher and coach, has promoted that idea, Musgrave said.

* The Evansville Parks and Recreation Department also may receive funds through the program. Parks and Recreation has no funding available in its budget for tree plantings, but Director Brian Holtz said donations to the Parks Foundation fund about 100 new trees per year.

Members of the Solid Waste Management District met with City Controller Russ Lloyd Jr. to talk about financing for program. They said the district has enough of a cash balance to fund a substantial number of trees.

"After speaking with county commissioners, county council and the mayor, we decided there were some things we ought to be using the taxpayers’ money for," Mosby said.

Representatives of Keep Evansville Beautiful and the City Tree Board spoke in favor of the program Tuesday. City Arborist Shawn Dickerson will be heavily involved in carrying it forward.

"All trees would be the exact planting locations would have to be approved by the Tree Board with input of the city arborist," Musgrave said. "He’s going to be an integral part of this entire program."

Musgrave estimated the program will have capacity to fund about 330 street trees annually, and Keep Evansville Beautiful would be asked to water those.

Grants for another 50 trees or so would be available to neighborhood associations, and grants for more than 60 for Parks and Recreation.

She said details about the grant opportunity for schools and youth organizations are still being worked out.

Several large trees at Garvin Park were lost when construction started on the Deaconess Aquatic Center, but local officials vowed to accelerate tree plantings elsewhere.

Mayor Lloyd Winnecke said 100 trees are being planted in and around Vann Park as part of a celebration commemorating Evansville's 20 years as a Tree City USA community.

The last 20 of those 100 trees will go in the ground at 1 p.m. ceremony on March 27.
© 2020 courierpress.com, All rights reserved.