Residents support tree additions in Elmwood Park

by Mary Kay Quinn

An Arbor Day- and Earth Day-related donation from a group of residents has spurred the creation of the Elmwood Park Tree Fund in Independence. Donations to the fund will boost the city’s tree-planting efforts throughout the park.

The creation of the fund is good timing, said Recreation Director Tom Walchanowicz.

“We have been trying to get more trees planted in the park,” he said. “We have had to take a few trees down in the past couple of years because of various diseases. We had a lot of ash trees get destroyed by the emerald ash borer, so we are trying to replenish a lot of trees in the park.”

This spring, the parks and recreation department planted 25 trees in honor of Arbor Day. Five maples, five oaks, five willows and 10 spruce trees were added to Elmwood Park.

Weeks later, a group of residents from Sunset Avenue donated $500 to the park for trees. Out of this, the tree fund was created.

Residents can donate toward a tree and buy a commemorative plaque if they wish.

The program lets visitors “have a piece of the park,” said Ryan Wancata, parks and recreation manager and sustainability coordinator.

“Residents can come back one day with their children or grandchildren and show them, ‘Hey, look, this is a tree we donated 15 years ago’ — that’s pretty special to do,” Wancata said.

Sunset Avenue residents joined together to show their appreciation of how well the city takes care of nearby Elmwood Park, said councilman John DiGeronimo, who lives on the street. About 25 households contributed to the $500 donation.

Independence is focusing on native trees that require less watering, including maples and oaks, Wancata said. Tree selections will depend on location; for example, wetter areas might be ideal for willow trees.

Walchanowicz said various areas of the 46-acre park are in need of more trees and the shade they provide.

“Even at the pool, people are flocking to shade, versus years ago,” he said. “They don’t want to be out in the sun. So now we are building shade structures and building playgrounds that have shade on top of them. We’re trying to get more shade within the whole campus … including around the fieldhouse and city hall area and some of our other building areas.”

Parks and recreation workers install the trees, which are purchased from nurseries.

The Sunset Avenue residents are the first to have a tree and plaque under the new program. Appropriately, the new tree is a sunset maple, DiGeronimo said, and is near Elmwood Pond.

To contribute, residents can contact the parks and recreation department at 216-524-3262 or find the donation application at under the parks and recreation department tab. ∞

Photo: Residents who donate funds toward a tree may also purchase a commemorative plaque. Photo courtesy of Independence Parks and Recreation.