Gone With The Wind

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Gone With The Wind

Trees damaged in a summer 2014 thunderstorm await removal.

Trees damaged in a summer 2014 thunderstorm await removal.

by Jonathan Rupprecht •

If you drive on Washington Boulevard, by now you no doubt have noticed these stripped tree trunks. What on earth is going on?

Some have assumed that this is part of the city’s campaign against the emerald ash borer. That’s a good guess, because that campaign is in full swing. But Jeff Lausenberg, an urban forestry manager with the City of Milwaukee, explained that in this case the trimming is in response to the city’s regular hazardous tree survey, the so-called “windshield survey” carried on annually by the Department of Forestry. Yet you might ask, “Why so many trees here this year?”

It goes back to a strong but very localized thunderstorm in the summer of 2014. Washington Heights bore the brunt of that focused storm energy, and you may recall seeing the large branches littering the boulevard afterwards, which subsequently led to the removal of a few large, old trees.

But that was not the end of the story. Other trees had also been damaged, though less severely, but couldn’t be addressed at the time. That response is what we see now, and it is a multi-step process which is spread out over a period of time due to the various competing uses of the equipment and crews. First the branches are cut off and run through a chipper. This mulch is subsequently used by the city for new plantings as well as given to non-profits, such as community gardens.

The second step utilizes larger trucks with grapple hooks to load up the trunks after they have been cut into segments. This wood is then re-cycled by local companies who mill it or sell it as lumber when possible. Jeff stated that there are currently about 1,200 tree trunks in the city awaiting this removal process, a typical number, he says. Most often this project is completed before winter fully sets in, so by the time you read this, the trunks themselves may be gone.

Next is stump removal, which in our case may not happen until next summer. And finally comes planting the replacement trees, which may happen next fall, or possibly be delayed until spring of 2017. The city makes use of a wide variety of tree types for these plantings, depending on factors such as the proximity of underground utilities as well as overhead lines, the salt tolerance of the tree, etc. The city is happy to consider requests from homeowners for a type of tree to be planted on city property in front of their home, but it cannot absolutely guarantee results.

As far as the emerald ash borer situation is concerned, while the city is engaged in preventive injections on the ash trees on city property, Jeff Lausenberg advises home owners with ash trees on their property to also have their trees injected before they become infected and hazardous and need to be removed. For further information on this, or to request a tree planting, contact the Milwaukee Department of Forestry at 286.2489.

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