Indianapolis – Partners, Partners, Partners

Beyond working daily with the planners and developers on the SustainIndy and RebuildIndy teams, Urban Forestry interacts daily with the Department of Code Enforcement (DCE) and Indy Parks and Recreation. DCE is responsible for enforcing the tree and flora ordinance.[1] DCE also issues all permits relating to tree and flora work, meaning all landscape work has to be approved through that office, and any violations of the ordinance can be taken to court by DCE’s lawyers. Indy Parks and Recreation is responsible for 207 park properties and 59 miles of greenway trails, which amount to more than 11,000 acres.[2] Urban Forestry works with Indy Parks and Recreation’s Land Stewardship group, which is responsible for natural land area restoration work.

With all of this talk of ordinances, permits and green infrastructure, one may begin to wonder about tree plantings in Indianapolis. Those are happening, too, with the help of another partner, the nonprofit Keep Indianapolis Beautiful, Inc. (KIB), which manages all of Urban Forestry’s tree planting projects.

KIB, an affiliate of the national Keep America Beautiful, Inc. organization, first began its work in Indianapolis in 1976 as Indianapolis Clean City, but changed its name in 1997 “to better reflect its efforts in the community.”[3] KIB oversees a number of programs designed to enhance the livability of the capital city, including its anti-litter Great Indy Cleanup program and its Project GreenSpace program. About seven years ago, the organization beefed up its community tree program by giving birth to NeighborWoods, which helps plant trees on both private and public land. KIB is a member of the Alliance for Community Trees, which also has a NeighborWoods program and agreed to let KIB use the NeighborWoods name for its tree planting initiative.

“One of the goals of NeighborWoods is to create a more positive tree culture in the city,” says the program’s director, Andrew Hart, and it does this by focusing on areas of the city that need trees the most.

University Park tree planting. Credit: Heidi Veronica

University Park tree planting. Credit: Heidi Veronica

When KIB was developing its NeighborWoods program, it brought together a diverse group of advisors — from public health officials to experts from local universities and the state urban forester — to develop criteria to determine the neighborhoods with the greatest need for an increased tree canopy. Ultimately, nine variables were examined across neighborhoods in the city, including tree canopy, impervious surface, proximity to industrial plant locations, traffic, rate of childhood asthma, crime rate and income. Using these criteria, KIB determined six “hotspot” neighborhoods that would be key locales for NeighborWoods activities.[4] While anyone in the city can apply for a NeighborWoods planting, KIB’s efforts focus specifically on outreach to the hotspots — going to community meetings, street fairs and block parties to engage the residents in planting trees with KIB.

For NeighborWoods plantings, KIB brings the trees and the expertise, while residents are responsible for helping with the planting efforts and then the care and maintenance efforts afterwards. For non-hotspot plantings, Hart relates that they try to plant the new trees in the public right of way. In hotspots, though, the goal is to simply get trees in the ground. “We’ll plant in your front yard, your backyard, anywhere there’s a plantable space, as long as we have someone to care for the trees,” says Hart. Last year, 6,000 trees were planted through NeighborWoods — up from the 600 the program planted in its first year.


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[1] City of Indianapolis. Department of Public Works. Urban Forestry. (accessed Sept. 12, 2012).

[2] Indianapolis Parks Foundation. Indianapolis Parks Foundation Fact Sheet. (accessed Sept. 12, 2012).

[3] Keep Indianapolis Beautiful, Inc. KIB: History, Facts and Statistics. (accessed Sept. 13, 2012).

[4] Keep Indianapolis Beautiful, Inc. More on the NeighborWoods Effort. (accessed Sept. 13, 2012).