When a Franklin resident proposed filling a once flood-damaged section of the city with trees, he had two goals, including providing downtown with a feature unique to central Indiana.
Nowhere else in the region has a forest filled with hardwood trees been located in the middle of a city, Jim Crane said.
But Crane also wanted to honor the memory of his son, who died months before the flood.
So far, about 900 trees have been planted south of downtown Franklin, where at least 50 houses once stood. In the next five years between 3,000 and 4,000 more trees are expected. Crane proposed the idea of planting the trees to city officials because he felt it was an inexpensive way to mend the land.
In five years, Crane wants to see the area along South Street, south of Greenlawn Cemetery, filled with hundreds of Indiana hardwood trees, along with benches where people can sit and rest. That kind of serene setting could draw more people to the south side of Franklin, he said.
“I wanted to see something done here that was meaningful for the city. And I didn’t think anyone was going to carry the ball unless I did,” Crane said.
City officials began asking residents for ideas about how to fill the flood-damaged areas in 2010. Some of the ideas proposed included a fountain as well as a baseball diamond. But whatever went in along South Street would need a relatively low cost and couldn’t disturb residents who still lived nearby.
Crane, who lives in Franklin and whose house wasn’t damaged in the flood, pitched the project to the city as one that would be relatively inexpensive. Planting all of the trees should cost about $26,000 and wouldn’t require much maintenance. Trees wouldn’t create lots of noise or shine lights that would disturb anyone living nearby as a baseball field would, and would still be respectful of the cemetery, Crane said.
Crane also believed the project would be one his son, John Crane, who died of a heart attack in 2008 a few months before the flood, would appreciate. John Crane was an outdoorsman who regularly camped, fished and hunted with his three sons, Jim Crane said.
The first 50 trees were planted in October, and since then volunteers have been taking time to put additional trees into the ground. That includes about 135 volunteers who spent a morning in late April planting saplings in the area. Crane rallies volunteers for each round of planting, contacting Franklin schools and service clubs around the city to find potential planters.
“It’s going to be a very community-involved project,” Crane said.
Crane is still continuing to raise funds for the project by asking individuals and service organizations for donations. About $15,000 has already been raised through donations and recently Crane was given a $4,400 grant by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.
The next round of planting will happen this fall, and then again next spring, when between 2,000 and 3,000 seedlings and 100 saplings are planted by another group of area volunteers.
“I feel pleased that (the project) is started. Still a long way to go,” Crane said.