WHITEWATER — Efforts to increase the number of native tree species in Whitewater’s Starin Park and identify them with information about their value and natural interrelationship will be getting a financial jump start with the recent award of a $25,000 Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Urban Forestry Grant to the City of Whitewater.
Whitewater is one of 47 Wisconsin communities to qualify for the funds and awarded a grant as part of an effort to replace large amounts of city trees lost due to Emerald Ash Borer and natural attrition.
Trees are essential to maintaining a critical balance of carbon dioxide and oxygen. Tree leaves pull in carbon dioxide and produce oxygen as a by-product of photosynthesis. This goal of the grant is to help educate the community about the trees that would best thrive in Whitewater, and to promote planting and growing such trees to increase the tree canopy within the city.
The DNR Urban Forestry Grant will reimburse up to $25,000 of city and volunteer efforts to plant and maintain new trees and shrubs within the nearly 35-acre park that borders the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater campus. The grant is designed to help city private property owners to understand the critical role of trees in converting carbon dioxide into oxygen.
The initial Whitewater project is to establish an arboretum, or outside museum of trees and shrubs, to provide educational opportunities for children and adults by identifying and preserving a diverse network of native and imported trees and plants.
The concept of the Arboretum at Starin Park was initiated by Whitewater Urban Forestry Commission (UFC) member and retired educator Jim Nies. The UFC is a permanent subcommittee of the City of Whitewater Parks and Recreation Board that makes recommendations concerning the care of all trees and shrubs planted in the city.
Nies estimates that there currently are as many as 50 declining 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 the park has lost over 20 trees in the past three years. The UFC desires to plant 150 native trees and species in the next year to replace dying trees or those that needed to be removed.
The city supported volunteer group is establishing partnerships with UW-Whitewater, the Whitewater Unified School District, the Starin Park Neighborhood Association, and several other interested businesses and individuals.
A local fundraising effort to cover the initial cost of purchasing trees and shrubs and producing educational materials has generated nearly $15,000 in contributions from the Coburn Company, First Citizens State Bank, the Historic Starin Park Neighborhood, the Whitewater Community Foundation and many individuals.
Recently, the UFC placed 30 informational tree tags identifying common trees at Starin Park. Expanded tree tagging will continue for existing trees and new plantings. Plans for in depth information of each tree will be available in the future on PlantsMap, a digital program. The UFC’s early efforts recently have resulted in formal accreditation of the Arboretum at Starin Park by the international arboretum accreditation agency ArbNet.
To learn more or donate to the arboretum, join the UFC or participate in the project, contact Parks and Recreation Director, Eric Boettcher at (262) 473-0122 or EBoettcher@whitewater-wi.gov.