FORT WAYNE, (Ind.) – The Allen County Park & Recreation Board held a meeting Wednesday, with one of the major topics being the cleanup efforts at Fox Island County Park.

The meeting was a continued discussion in response to the 3,000 trees that were downed in Fox Island County Park after the 2022 derecho.

Natalie Haley, director and education manager of Fox Island, said their biggest focus is getting new trees planted. Park officials are finishing up the planting in the areas that were hit the hardest.

Haley says their goal is to plant 7,100 new trees. They’ve planted 2,800 so far, which means there are 4,300 left to plant. Haley said if they get enough volunteers to come out this weekend, they could finish the job.

“I’m shooting for a goal of 100 people to come out and plant 43 of these little baby trees,” Haley said. “And if we do that, then they’ll all be in the ground within an hour.”

Most of the large pieces of debris has been picked up, while the rest will be left to decompose and create nutrients in the soil. Haley said there is a lot of natural regeneration occurring without their help and that the trees they have been planting encourages certain species and environmental diversity. She said it’s also important that these supplemental trees be planted sooner rather than later.

“They’ve been in a dormant state kept in a kind of cooler, and when I pick them up from the DNR nursery, then as soon as they’re out of that cooler, they start to feel the temperature changes and they start sprouting and merging and they need to get in the ground. They need water, they need sunlight, and we start to see them start to stress,” Haley said.

Volunteers can tell where trees have been planted by the pink flagging tape.

Haley said there’s no timeline on when the park will reopen due to safety precautions that still need to take place.

“We’re going to have to have time to get the trails back in order so that you know people can take a run on them or walk their dog or walk with their children and not worry about their safety,” Haley said.

Those who volunteer for over 10 hours will receive free admission once the park opens. If you would like to become a volunteer, you can find the link to apply here.