Tree planting process in Todd Park continues

Published 6:54 am Friday, November 6, 2009

The process to restore Todd Park to what it was before a July tornado will take time, but area residents continued that process Thursday.

Crews from the Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department and workers from Dolan’s Landscape Center planted about 21 maple trees at Todd Park Thursday morning.

Todd Park, 2400 11th St. N.E., sustained major damage when a twister barreled down the park June 17. Many trees in the park were destroyed, and many others were damaged, leaving a once heavily wooded park looking much different.

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“You used to see a forest, now you see a field,” said Kim Underwood, director of the Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department.

It will take many years for Austin’s largest park to regain the canopy it once had.

Underwood said such community efforts like the one Thursday are important because they bring the community together to restore the park to how it once looked.

“It shows real community,” Underwood said. “It was really devastating how the park looked after if you knew how the park looked prior to this.”

The 21 maple trees were planted in a triangular area west of the pavilion and south of the softball fields. Many of the trees were being planted along a new walking path through the park.

That spot used to boast many ash trees, but maples were planted because of the threat of the emerald ash borer, said Greg Bell, who works on the tree crew with Parks, Recreation and Forestry.

Planting trees does instantly recreate the former atmosphere of the park, but planting trees is a big step in the long process.

“Ten years from now it will be really nice again,” Bell said.

Many other area groups have donated trees or money for the park.

The Austin Police Department and Fire Department held a fundraiser softball tournament in July to purchase trees for the park and for private properties. They hoped to raise $3,000 and Austin Police Officer Mark Walski said they surpassed that goal, bringing in $4,000.

Austin Modern Woodmen Camp 243 recently donated an unspecified number of trees under its Plant A Tree program. The program allows its members to receive one free tree seedling per year to be planted wherever they choose. Modern Woodmen has planted more than 80,000 trees across the country this year.

Berg’s Nursery has also donated trees to the park.

The donations haven’t been limited to the Austin community. The New Ulm Girls Fastpitch Softball Association donated four trees to the project after attending a softball tournament at the park after the storm. Other individuals from outside the Austin area have donated in trees to restore Todd Park, Underwood said.

Underwood said she hopes such volunteer efforts continue at Todd Park. Additional funds could come to the project soon, as Underwood said the Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department applied for a Hormel Foundation grant. Underwood said they’ll learn later in November if they’ll receive a grant and how much money could go toward planting more trees at the park.

“It’s a work in progress,” Underwood said. “The park will take many, many years to restore itself. It’s a good thing when community comes together, and I thank everyone that’s been helping and trying to strive for that.”