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Frank Gray

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Frank Gray | The Journal Gazette
In the Avalon Place neighborhood on the city’s south side, the ash trees have died and replacement trees are dying in the heat.

Ash tree replacements untended

A reader called the other day to complain about the mayor’s plan to spend about $400,000 beautifying the entrances to Fort Wayne.

People have been complaining for years about how ugly some of the roads are leading into the city and talking of ways to make the ride into town more attractive.

A couple of decades ago someone actually proposed spending a bundle of money painting choo-choo trains on the railroad underpasses so people would know when they had gotten downtown, just in case they didn’t notice the Courthouse and the 20-some-story buildings there.

That struck me as absurd, and fortunately the idea quietly died.

I told the female caller I had no idea exactly what the mayor had planned, though it would be nice if they could install some curbs along Bluffton Road and other streets that degrade into gravel and weeds on the edges.

This woman, however, had other ideas about what constituted ugly. A lot of her complaints dealt with abandoned buildings on private property. Then there was her neighborhood. She lives in Avalon Place, which is off Lower Huntington Road. The neighborhood is full of dead trees with their bark falling off and limbs falling down, she said.

I knew what she was talking about. Last year, I wrote about the neighborhood. On some streets practically all the trees were ash. They had all died, and some residents wanted to know when the trees would be removed.

I explained that there were thousands of dead ash trees all over the city, and trees deemed hazardous by the city were being cut down first. The rest would be removed in time.

Fortunately, the city recently learned the state owed it $8.5 million and that a Steuben County company had offered to remove the dead ash trees for about $500,000. So the dead ash trees would be removed sooner than anticipated.

But there’s another problem, the caller said. The city was replacing some of the dead ash trees with new trees, but the trees weren’t getting watered, and some were dying.

I took another drive through Avalon. The woman was right. In many parts of the addition, there are young trees in the right of way that had clearly been planted recently. Several were dead, either completely leafless or their leaves completely brown. Others had only a few leaves on them, or were clearly stressed.

The city arborist, Chad Tinkle, must be going crazy, I thought. He’s having to cut down trees in virtually every neighborhood, and now, in what is the driest summer since the drought of 1988, a good part of the little trees that are replacing them are shriveling and dying.

I left a message for Tinkle to ask whether he was troubled by this turn of events or wanted to put out a plea, asking people to water their new little trees.

Tinkle didn’t call back.

People in Fort Wayne seem to be passionate about their trees. When trimming crews arrive, neighbors often get up in arms.

It’s hard to get passionate about a scrawny transplant that’s technically owned by the city, but maybe people should consider stringing a hose to the curb and watering the new transplants lest they end up with just another dead tree out front.

Frank Gray reflects on his and others’ experiences in columns published Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. He can be reached by phone at 461-8376, by fax at 461-8893, or by email at You can also follow him on Twitter @FrankGrayJG.