Urban Forestry Program in Prairie du Chien continues to grow

By Ted Pennekamp

Prairie du Chien’s Urban Forestry Program has been continuing nicely over the past two years. Park and Recreation Director Mike Ulrich said that a $42,000 grant that the city obtained in 2011 has been put to good use and the forestry plans continue to develop.

Ulrich noted that the city has made a plan for the city’s trees and for dealing with potential problems such as Emerald Ash Borer. A La Riviere Farm Park assessment is also underway.

Recently, 30 trees were planted in Washington Street Park as part of the park’s improvement project. The Key Club and the Kiwanis Club collaborated with the city on the tree planting.

As part of the city’s Urban Forestry program, a part-time forester, Jerry Reed, was hired, and Reed has helped the city with right-of-way issues around the city’s parks and in “cleaning up” the parks as far as determining trees and limbs that should be taken down.

“It’s an ongoing effort and a proactive effort,” said Ulrich, who noted that it is important for any municipality to have attractive parks with nice looking, well placed and maintained trees.

Ulrich said there is an educational effort in the forestry program as well. An activity guide has been printed by which the community can learn more about what the city is doing and planning regarding the forestry program. In addition, there are yearly first-grade programs in which all first-grade students in the city visit St. Feriole Island and learn about the various kinds of trees and about the planting of trees on the island. The city has also applied for a grant for an urban forestry classroom.

Three other programs include the Trail of Presidents, the Memorial Tree Program, and the Trees With a History Program.

The Trail of Presidents will commemorate the 21 presidents who have visited Prairie du Chien with the planting of oak trees in 21 locations. The oak tree is America’s National Tree. Also included in the Trail of Presidents is Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy. Davis was stationed in Prairie du Chien early in his military career. Former President of Mexico, Vicente Fox, who was educated at Campion Boys School, is also included.

“This project exploded on the scene in April. It is a brain storm of John Mundt. John came to me and said we should do something in honor of the 21 presidents who have lived or visited Prairie du Chien. It went over very well. We sold all within a period of six weeks. People who have purchased the trees have done so because of their connection with the presidents or with the Island,” said Tom Nelson, in speaking before the Prairie du Chien City Council Tuesday night.

“We would like to place the trees on the old racetrack, where the Dousman’s used to race. Because our national tree is an oak tree, we decided to alternate between red and white oaks for this project. There will be two blue spruces on either side, giving us red, white and blue. They will also be spaced 30 feet apart, honoring the fact that Wisconsin is the 30th state in the union.”

Ulrich said, “The Memorial Tree Program has generated quite a bit of interest among citizens wanting to donate trees.” For $200, a citizen can donate a tree and a plaque will be placed nearby so that the tree will be a lasting memory of someone. “We’re quite excited to be able to offer something like this,” Ulrich said.

Every person has a story and every tree has a story. The Trees With a History Program matches the person with a tree. Many notable people have lived in Prairie du Chien or stopped here on their journeys. Several people have been matched with a tree to help tell their story. Ulrich encourages everyone to stop on St. Feriole Island to check out these historical trees. Notable people associated with this project so far include Joyce Kilmer, Ben Logan, John Muir, Aldo Leopold, Jack Foley Horkheimer, Henry David Thoreau, and Elaine Kramer. Plaques near each historical tree discuss the history and the person.

“We are using our resources well,” said Ulrich about the Urban Forestry Program. Ulrich said that the city plans to partner with organizations in order to continue to add to the number of trees in the community.
Questions about the Urban Forestry Program in Prairie du Chien can be directed to Mike Ulrich at 326-7207, or to Terry Meyer at 326-8534. Tom Nelson has been instrumental in the Trail of Presidents and Trees With a History. Nelson can be contacted at 326-8602.

Managing a community’s tree canopy has many benefits. The presence of trees may increase property values by 3-17 percent. Air conditioning cost can be lowered by as much as 50 percent. Trees reduce storm water runoff. Trees reduce noise and air pollution levels. Trees provide wildlife habitat. Shade helps to extend the life of pavement, reducing street maintenance costs. A view of trees has also been proven to help relax people, providing health benefits.

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