NIPSCO: Planting trees for the future

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Proper tree care: Last year NIPSCO planted 128 trees with the aid of employees and community volunteers. | Supplied photo

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Northern Indiana Public Service Co. understands people have a connection with their trees. They provide shade on hot days and beautify a yard with greenery in the summer and brilliant colors in the fall.

But the utility company also knows that if not careful, a homeowner could hit an underground utility line while planting a tree and that the small maple planted today could grow quickly into a large, stately specimen that could soon get tangled in their overhead power lines.

NIPSCO spokeswoman Kathleen Szot said the utility not only keeps trees located near their lines trimmed in a responsible way, it also has its own Forestry Team that educates the public on what they should consider when buying and planting trees.

In honor of Arbor Day, NIPSCO representatives are visiting schools and community centers throughout the month of April to present tree-planting and education events with the goal of demonstrating environmental awareness and stressing the importance of planting trees in the right place.

Szot said NIPSCO is one of two utilities in the country to have achieved the Arbor Day Foundation’s Tree Line USA recognition every year since the program started more than 20 years ago. She said the program recognizes utilities that practice proper tree care, community engagement and energy conservation.

Last year, NIPSCO handed out more than 2,000 seedlings during 14 community events across northern Indiana and planted 128 trees with the aid of employees and community volunteers, Szot said.

“The goal of these events is to inform people what they should consider when buying and planting trees, since tree types vary widely. We want to keep the tree sustainable for a long time,” Szot said.

She said the company also gives a timeline for how long it will take for the tree to mature, tells what type of animals it might attract and what kind of foliage it will have.

She said the Forestry Team goes to schools, parks, cities and towns to plant trees and educate the public.

Szot also noted that it is important to call 811 before planting a tree. 811 is a toll-free hotline for location underground utility lines, such as natural gas, electric, water, phone and cable.

Once a call is made, a professional utility line locator will visit the dig site to mark the approximate location of underground utility lines with paint or flags.

“Utility lines can be closer to the surface than you think. Calling 811 at least two working days before you dig can help keep you safe,” she said.

More NIPSCO tree-planting tips:

1. Decide in advance what you would like your tree to do for you. Do you want shade, framing, accent color, screening, energy conservation, wildlife habitat or something else? Keep in mind the type of tree and its foliage.

2. Consider the height and spread of the tree once it reaches maturity. Never select medium or large trees for planting near overhead utility wires.

3. Choose a tree that will thrive. Look for a tree with a strong main trunk that is well suited to your climate and soil conditions. Avoid trees with shipping and handling damage such as trunk scrapes,
broken limbs or torn roots.

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