Dennis Kordes, president of the city’s Tree Board, is never one to turn down an opportunity to make a joke.
So when he attended Thursday morning’s meeting of the Vincennes Redevelopment Commission, he couldn’t help himself.
“I just came to say that I spent all your money — so thanks,” he said dryly and with a wave as he pretended to take his seat.
But in all seriousness, it was $20,000 well spent, he said, and he wanted the RDC to have the Tree Board’s gratitude.
“We were able to get a lot of the trees damaged in the April storm cleaned up and replaced,” he said. “You’ll see a huge push over the next couple of weeks to get a lot of trees planted.
“There will be a lot of new trees going in, so that’s a really good thing,” he said.
Kordes went before members of the RDC in June to request $20,000, money he pledged to use to replace some of the dozens of trees that were lost when an April 8 severe storm ripped through Vincennes, bringing with it 80 mph straight-line winds that downed trees, damaged structures and left thousands without power for days.
The Tree Board gets $10,000 annually from the city for the planting of trees in city rights-of-way, essentially the space between the sidewalk and the curb.
But as the city looks to repave streets, many trees have been lost along the way. Many old and dying trees, too, have been taken down by the Tree Board in recent years. So the RDC has expressed a commitment to help put some of them back, at least within the Tax Increment Finance Zone, the vehicle by which they collect a portion of property tax funds to reinvest in improvements within its boundaries.
It’s often difficult to find appropriate spaces for new plantings so as not to damage the new infrastructure with extensive root systems later.
But with the April storm, Kordes said the opportunities were plentiful.
The Tree Board spent about $10,000, he said, taking down upwards of 20 trees that were damaged during the storm.
They will now look to put back more than 30, and fall is prime tree-planting season.
“Our primary focus has been cleaning up and replacing those trees that were damaged within the TIF zone,” Kordes said. “But we wouldn’t have been able to do any of this without the RDC’s help.
“Without that money, we’d have a lot of damaged or dangerous trees still out there.”
The conversation, though, turned to other possible places trees funded by the RDC could be planted either this year or next.
The RDC has said it will likely continue padding the Tree Board’s budget to help improve the tree canopy inside the TIF zone.
One such area, RDC members agreed, was Four Lakes Park; the commission two years ago funded more than $300,000 in improvements there, specifically new asphalt and a new bathroom facility, among other projects.
And Kordes agreed.
Just recently a resident near Four Lakes Park asked that a “huge sycamore” be taken down inside the park as he was worried about its limbs falling onto his property.
Kordes said the tree was located just to the left of the entrance into the park.
And with more and more people congregating inside the now renovated space — whether for fishing or picnicking — he thought Four Lakes Park a great area to invest some of the RDC’s funds in the coming years.
“We’d like to plant several trees right there where we took out the one big sycamore,” Kordes said. “That’s a nice area to offer a shady, respite spot.”
Another area that would be within the TIF zone would be a new, small park at the corner of Eighth and Scott streets, Kordes pointed out.
“Because that’s what we want, little spots where kids can stop or a family can go and have a picnic,” he said. “That’s the kind of thing that keeps kids in a neighborhood, gives people pride in their neighborhood.
“I take great pride in Vincennes,” he went on. “I have a great love of the town. And I think all of us, in 30 years, will look back and see it all with a sense of accomplishment — that it wasn’t about us. It was about our kids and grandkids.”