Indianapolis – Looking to the FutureIn 2010, an idea emerged in Indianapolis to enhance the livability of the city by focusing on the city’s waterways — educating the community about their importance and conducting work to improve their function and aesthetic qualities. This idea — born during the 2010 Livability Challenge — resulted in the formation of Reconnecting to Our Waterways, a coalition of private and public organizations, civic leaders and residents. The idea behind Reconnecting to Our Waterways is to create a collective impact model of engaged citizens and partners to work together to enhance waterways throughout the city. KIB and Lilly are both members, while a member of the Office of Sustainability serves as a liaison.
“We’ve identified riparian corridors as essential for environmental health and for interception of stormwater,” says KIB’s Hart. “These have become a high priority for us. We’ll take large groups of volunteers along our riparian corridors to do invasive removal and plant hundreds of trees.”
This focus on water issues — and stormwater in particular — is also of high concern for Urban Forestry. It’s estimated that Indianapolis’ street trees alone offer $2 million in stormwater benefits for the city. With a public trust having recently bought Indianpolis’ water operations from the city, Mertz mentions that “it’s in the public trust’s interest to make sure we have adequate tree canopy.”
Turning a focus to stormwater makes sense for an urban forestry program that is finding itself more and more in sync with the green infrastructure plans in the city. As the integration between Urban Forestry, SustainIndy, RebuildIndy, KIB, corporate partners, neighborhoods and residents continues, Indianapolis’ urban forest will grow stronger. It needs just needs continual help from the city and its residents to reach its potential.
References Reconnecting to Our Waterways. About. http://reconnectingtoourwaterways.org/about-2/ (accessed Sept. 14, 2012).  State of Indiana. Indiana Department of Natural Resources. Division of Forestry. Indiana’s Street Tree Benefits Summary. http://www.in.gov/dnr/forestry/files/fo-benefits.pdf (accessed Sept. 12, 2012).