Tree-lined streets and abundant shade don’t come naturally to Wichita, which is why the partnership between the new nonprofit ICTrees and the city merits encouragement and assistance.
Ice storms, drought, wind and disease kill off many trees before they reach maturity. Maintaining a leafy canopy in Wichita, and ensuring city streets are lined with blooming ornamentals in the spring and vibrant colors in the autumn, takes leadership as well as effort and investment.
City arborist Gary Farris told The Eagle that current city staff can only handle planting and maintaining about 500 trees annually.
Compare that with the 3,000 plantings costing $300,000 annually at the peak of the reforestation efforts of the late 1980s and early 1990s led by the late City Manager Chris Cherches – whose first impression of Wichita in the mid-’80s had been of a city in need of landscaping and beautification, especially along its median strips and rights of way.
One example of how Barney Barnhard’s ICTrees is trying to help will happen April 24 at Dr. Glen Day Park, when 50 trees donated by Westar Energy will be planted. To donate or find out more about ICTrees, which is a committee of the Wichita Parks Foundation, go to ictrees.org.
Trees, flowers and other landscaping need to be higher priorities at City Hall, too.
A new communitywide emphasis on tree planting not only promises to green up the cityscape and improve its looks but also reduce air temperature, energy costs, soil erosion, noise and air pollution, and stormwater and fertilizer runoff.
As Farris said, “To have a sustainable, high-quality-of-life place, we need more trees.”
For the editorial board, Rhonda Holman