INDIANAPOLIS — There are more than 4,000 urban forests across the city of Indianapolis. An urban forest is one acre of trees or larger. Protecting this natural foliage is beneficial to the entire city.
To make sure those remaining forests are protected the Indiana forest Alliance launched the Forests for Indy Initiative back in 2018. The program is working with homeowners to get rid of invasive species that could hinder the growth of naturally occurring plants and trees.
"People aren't used to thinking about forests in the city,” Rae Schnapp the Conservation Director for the Indiana Forest Alliance said. “Our working definition is one acre of tree canopy or larger because Urban Forests tend to be small. "
Schnapp works directly with homeowners to educate them about what plants they should be clearing from their yards and land. The reason is that even though these patches of land are small, they can have a big impact on the city; especially when it comes to reducing the area's carbon footprint.
"It might be six degrees cooler a half a mile away from a forest so it's not just in the shade itself,” Schnapp said. “They are also absorbing air pollutants and sequestering carbon that actually kind mitigates the impact of burning fossil fuels and driving cars."
But for the residents of the River Park Neighborhood, the forest also helps protect their homes from certain weather events.
"We have a beautiful neighborhood, but it is in the floodplain,” Elizabeth Mahoney, Board President of the River Park Neighborhood Association said. “So we understand the important role that trees and specifically large trees play in preserving our quality of life in the floodplain."
The large trees help soak up excess water when heavy rain events occur. That's why their neighborhood wanted to make sure their urban forest is healthy.
Along with that, a lot of urban forests have been destroyed due to the city of Indianapolis continuing to grow.
"The goal is to try and protect as many forests within the city as we can,” Schnapp said. “These are privately owned forests, and they are incredibly vulnerable to development pressure as the city grows. "
The 4,327 urban forests in the city aren’t protected meaning they could be developed and torn down. If you are interested in learning more about the Forests For Indy initiative or scheduling a clean-up day in your neighborhood forest click here.