News from Indiana: City of Valparaiso Recognized for Using Trees for Rainwater Management


Valparaiso, Indiana - location map

Expand & Preserve Urban Forest

Valpo’s diligence in advancing rainwater and stormwater management by utilizing trees was rewarded recently in Indianapolis by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM). “We were very pleased with the city’s performance and credit the collaborative efforts between multiple departments and the residents of Valparaiso,” said Mingyan Zhou, Valparaiso’s MS4 Coordinator.Shade Brigade_City of Valparaiso

Valparaiso was presented with an award for using trees to manage rainwater, including planting trees in Valpo’s neighborhoods with the help of volunteers (the Shade Brigade); installing Silva Cells (tree cells) at Central Park Plaza for tree root growth and stormwater storage and infiltration; addressing invasive forest pests; and other efforts that preserve and protect the city’s growing urban forest.

Shade Brigade Initiative

One of the key ways that Valparaiso promotes trees is through the Shade Brigade initiative, led by Ann Brugos at the Department of Public Works. Shade Brigade was established to educate and mobilize volunteers to expand and preserve the city’s urban forest. Since its formation in 2012, Shade Brigade has planted more than 220 trees in four neighborhoods, with help from more than 190 volunteers.

Ann Brugos_City of Valpariso_120p“We’re excited to see neighbors come together to add new trees to our city. We inevitably lose a certain number of trees every year to things like emerald ash borer, and efforts like this go a long way in replacing and diversifying the city’s tree inventory,” said Ann Brugos. She is also on the Board of Directors for the Indiana Urban Forestry Council, a state-wide nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting public education about the value and need for trees in public spaces and to preserving and expanding urban forests.

The Silva Cell is a modular suspended pavement system that uses soil volumes to support large tree growth and provide powerful on-site stormwater management through absorption, evapotranspiration, interception, and infiltration. The Silva Cell system is usually utilized in dense urban areas where soils are often compacted and covered by pavement.

“Trees affect storm water above ground (interception, evaporation, and absorption), at the surface (temporary storage), and below ground (infiltration, permeation and filtration). These functions of the trees reduce stormwater runoff and erosion, and also reduce pollutants carried by runoff to our streams and lakes. Preserving, protecting, and planting trees are all part of a good stormwater management program,” said Zhou.

Mayor Jon Costas_City of Valparaiso_120p“Trees add tremendous value to our community in terms of economic, environmental and health benefits. It’s very rewarding to have the state take notice of our efforts. We’ve worked hard to serve our residents and to exceed statewide standards,” said Mayor Jon Costas.

To Learn More:

The read about the vital role of Valparaiso’s trees in rainwater management as well as other benefits, go to

Aerial photo of downtown Valparaiso, Indiana

Aerial photo of downtown Valparaiso, Indiana