To the editor:
It was four years ago in June that we suffered a terrible flood resulting in the loss of several properties in the south side of Franklin.
Since that time, the city of Franklin, with the backing of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, has purchased most of the devastated properties and restored the ground to sod.
Starting in September, the parks department, in cooperation with the city planning department and a committee appointed by then-mayor Fred Paris, initiated a gathering of interested citizens to submit ideas as to how the city could best develop the flooded area into a city park.
Among the several ideas that were presented to the committee and subsequently to the parks department board of directors, was the suggestion to create an urban forest populated with native Indiana hardwood tress. After doing their due diligence, the parks board of directors agreed that the urban forest ideas would meet the criteria of something that would serve the recreational and educational requirements of citizens of all ages, do so at a reasonable original cost and offer the lowest future maintenance cost. Also, it would provide a possible future tourist draw and a beautiful scenic area within walking distance from downtown Franklin.
I am pleased to say that the project is now at the starting gate, with the path for the walking trails having been laid out and soon to be covered with hardwood mulch.
The mulch will be at no cost to the city, as it has been created from limbs, branches and leaves from tree trimming in the city. Once the trail is in place, it will be possible to start the planting of the first phase of the project. It is planned that the trees will be planted over a period of five years.
Arriving at this point has required the support of numerous people and organizations.
For fear of missing someone, I will not identify the many individuals who helped with this project along the way. Those thanks will come later, but the important thing to note is that this has been a community effort and there will continue to be many opportunities for community involvement as the project matures.
There is one group that I must commend for their input, and that is the local Purdue Extension service and the Purdue University School of Horticulture and Dean Mike Dana which provided three senior students, as a class project, to visit the site and draw a development plan for where and how many trees to plant.
Their help was invaluable. That admission is tough for a dyed-in-the-wool Indiana University fan to admit, but they did a great job.
In addition, the leaders of several of the largest employers in the area, such as Franklin College, Franklin United Methodist Community, Franklin Masonic Home and the Franklin Community School Corp. have been supportive from the beginning, as have some of the local service clubs.
It may seem as if this has taken an inordinately long time to show any progress on this project; it has to me. However, as with many government projects, there are a number of departments and people involved in the approval process. The city administration and members on the various councils and boards have assisted in this effort.
Since this was envisioned to be a project to involve the entire community and to require minimal investment by the city, we are at the beginning of the effort to seek out organizations and individuals to invest in the project either by way of financial contributions — such as purchasing trees or benches for memorials — or to provide hands-on labor to assist in the planting operations along with the parks department.
We soon will be announcing the formal development of these areas. You soon will see evidence of action on the ground.
I invite anyone interested in being involved in these efforts to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the blog site, “Franklin Urban Forest Project, http://
urbanforest4franklin.blogspot.com/. I look forward to this being a living works to provide enjoyment to many generations of future residents and visitors to Franklin.
James R. Crane