Pendleton, Indiana may have lost nearly 500 trees to a 2019 tornado, but with the support of community, grants and volunteers it’s about to gain them back.
The town was hit by an EF2 tornado that ripped through its historic residential area, historic downtown and historic park on Memorial Day in 2019.
“These three areas are some of the most beloved parts of our community,” explained Rachel Christenson, who serves as Pendleton’s planning director.
At the time, an emergency declaration was executed, and the community immediately got to work on the cleanup.
The town garnered the support of 15 fire agencies, six law enforcement agencies, five emergency management agencies, several non-profit groups and more than 400 volunteers.
“Our tree loss assessment began four days after the tornado hit. We estimated we lost approximately 500 trees on public and private property,” Christenson explained. “Since the tornado cut through the oldest parts of town, many of the trees lost were mature canopy trees that have been around for over 100 years.”
Around 33% of the town’s structures were damaged and 50 structures were severely damaged or destroyed. An estimated 150,000 cubic yards of debris was removed in 17 days. The town paid more than $200,000 in fees related to tree removal with the town’s insurance company only covering $25,000 of this cost.
Fast forward to the present, and the town has been awarded $55,800 in grants that go toward recovery costs.
“With these funds, we were able to update our public tree inventory, purchase software to help us manage the data we collected and to plant trees in public spaces,” Christenson explained. “The state of Pendleton’s urban forest was significantly altered by the tornado, and the inventory that was recently completed will help us understand what was lost and how that loss impacts the community beyond aesthetics.”
The town received a $20,000 Community and Urban Forestry Assistance Grant from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. This grant is being matched with $5,000 from the town, $5,000 from the park and $10,000 from the South Madison Community Foundation for a total project cost of $40,000.
In addition, the town received a $15,800 Community Recovery Grant from the Arbor Day Foundation, which will go toward planting 200 trees on residential property and 100 trees in the park.
With the help of volunteers, the community will plant the trees on Oct. 24.
“We are calling this event the Recovery Tree Planting Event,” Christenson noted.
Sue Patton, administrative assistant at the South Madison Community Foundation, is overseeing the volunteer portion of the upcoming event.
“We are putting out a call for individuals and organizations to volunteer for this event by forming teams of three or more people to plant healthy, young native trees throughout Pendleton,” Patton said. “To safely gather during this COVID-19 pandemic, teams will be formed with individuals who are already comfortable and safe working together.”
All planting will be done outdoors and independently, ensuring a safe and fun volunteer experience for all. No tree expertise is needed.
“We will provide you with the training to properly plant the trees ahead of time,” Patton said.
Arboriculture professionals and 811 will have already flagged each tree planting site.
Teams will need their own shovels and to pick up all materials at a central spot. They will then travel independently at their own pace to each address on their planting lists.
Each tree planting will take about 20 minutes. Volunteers can expect to spend from one to three hours on the project.
“We need approximately 45 tree-planting teams and each team can have a minimum of two on a team, but many have three or four to a team,” Patton said, noting there are currently 33 teams with a total of 120 volunteers.
“It is all about recovering from the hundreds of trees that were lost during the tornado. Our community is very resilient, and it is great to see how everyone in the community has come together since the tornado destroyed so much.”
To build your team and help restore the Pendleton tree canopy, please register at this link.