As Columbus prepares for winter, about 60 volunteers made it seem like spring by bringing new life to Clifty Park.
In small teams comprised of up to four volunteers, 15 Toyota Industrial Equipment Manufacturing employees joined forces with 45 Duke Energy workers Friday to plant 50 new trees west of the playground on the east side park’s southern section.
Duke Energy also presented a $7,500 donation to the Columbus Park Foundation.
Duke volunteers, joined by the company’s Indiana President Melody Birmingham-Byrd, came from as far away as Plainfield, Clarksville, Lafayette and Vincennes to help, Duke spokesman Chip Orben said.
Planting seven different varieties of trees native to the region _ including bald cypress, tulip poplar and oak _ is an excellent example of public-private partnerships, park foundation volunteer coordinator Dick Boyce said.
“But the really neat thing about planting trees is that you can actually watch them grow,” Boyce said. “It’s knowing that, over time, you can bring your family to this park and tell them ‘This is what I did.’”
Crews also removed five dead trees at Clifty Park, victims to the emerald ash borer.
The beetle, first discovered in Indiana in 2004, can kill ash trees, which make up nearly 50 percent of the city’s trees growing in parks such as Clifty, Birmingham-Byrd said.
“Once these trees die, they decay rather quickly, posing hazards to homes, vehicles and people,” Birmingham-Byrd said. “This devastation also dramatically alters the appearance of parks and neighborhoods, which causes a drop in property values.”
While describing tree-planting as a “premier focus event,” Orben said Duke Energy volunteers have already completed similar work at Columbus Youth Camp this year.
Although this was the first time that Toyota approached the Park Foundation to volunteer, Toyota welder John Abner pointed out his company is a major contributor to a new 28,000-square-foot indoor soccer complex on the city’s north side. The $1.3 million facility, located on 2.7 acres along Vickers Drive, is expected to open this winter.
In addition, TIEM also provides financial support by providing sponsorships for a number of local organizations, Abner said.
“We’re always encouraged to be involved in projects like this,” Abner said.
Working under the banner Duke Energy in Action, the utility’s Indiana employees have logged more than 7,600 hours of volunteer time in their communities. Their initiatives have ranged from building a playground at a shelter for domestic violence victims to tackling needed repairs at an animal rescue center. The planning of trees Friday in Clifty Park was conducted as part of a specific Duke Energy program, Indiana Care4Environment projects.