By Al Stanek
Whitewater Banner volunteer staff
The Whitewater Common Council this month authorized an application to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for a grant to fund the early efforts at creating an arboretum within Starin Park.
An arboretum is essentially an outdoor museum of trees and shrubs intended to provide educational opportunities for children and adults by identifying and preserving a diverse network of native and imported trees and plants. As a living outdoor classroom an arboretum demonstrates the essential value to humans that trees and shrubs provide by enhancing air quality and helping tamp down increasingly warmer summer temperatures. The non-profit Arbor Day Foundation estimates that a medium sized tree provides the equivalent temperature reduction of 10 room size air conditioners each running 20 hours per day.
The DNR Urban Forestry Grant is expected to reimburse up to $25,000 of city and volunteer efforts to plant and maintain new trees and shrubs within the nearly 35-acre park. Starin Park borders the UW-Whitewater (UWW) campus and its 7.6-acre Chopp Arboretum and the 1873-initiated Salisbury Arboretum effort to label UWW trees that started out as a 5.2-acre effort. The grant is also designed to encourage city private property owners to plant trees to replace those being removed and to increase and diversify the citywide tree inventory.
Tree planting advocates stress the importance of tree and shrub planting to reduce the impact of “Climate Change” which is widely believed by the scientific community to be one of the greatest threats to the Earth’s atmosphere and its ability to maintain reasonable temperatures and abundant clean air.
Humans and animals take in oxygen from the atmosphere and exhale carbon dioxide as a by-product. The combination of growing human and domesticated animal populations along with the significant impact of burning coal and fossil fuels is creating an environment that most scientists believe might not be able to support future generations. The Arbor Day Foundation identifies carbon dioxide as the single most destructive “greenhouse gas” affecting climate change.
The concept of an arboretum at Starin Park was initiated by Whitewater Urban Forestry Commission (UFC) member and retired educator Jim Nies. Mr. Nies estimates that there are currently as many as 50 unhealthy trees in Starin Park today that will soon need to be replaced. It is estimated that the park currently contains roughly 650 trees. Whitewater City Forester Brian Neumeister estimates that the park has lost over 20 trees in just the last three years. The initial UFC-led city effort is hoping to plant as many as 150 trees next year to replace removed and dying trees with a wider variety of native trees.
The UFC is a permanent sub-committee of the City of Whitewater Parks and Recreation Board which consists of a representative of that board, the City Plan Commission and up to five citizens. Currently only four of the five citizen UHC appointments are filled. City residents interested in joining the UFC can contact City Clerk Michele Smith at (262) 473-0102.
The city supported volunteer group is in the process of establishing partnerships with the UW-Whitewater, the Whitewater Unified School District, the Starin Park Neighborhood Association and other interested businesses and individuals. A fund-raising effort is underway to cover the initial cost of purchasing trees and shrubs and producing educational materials. UFC member Bill Chandler is leading the effort to generate financial support from individuals, businesses and foundations. He can provide information by calling (414) 630-3598.
The UFC has already placed nearly 30 informational tree tags identifying common trees at Starin Park as a sample of the type of information to be provided. Expanded tree tagging will continue for existing trees as well as for future new plantings. In depth information on each tree will ultimately be available via an on-line program called PlantsMap. The UFC’s early efforts have recently resulted in formal accreditation of the Arboretum at Starin Park by the international arboretum accreditation agency ArbNet.