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Park trees toppled, more on the way

Moves prompted after high-tech study

News editor

Drivers along Main St. were startled last week to see city crews cutting down trees in Central Park, with some speculating it was a move to free up more seating for Chingawassa Days concerts.

The facts are more mundane and in keeping with the city’s mission to keep the park safe for all its users.

“This all goes back to last year when that huge oak tree fell into the street from the root ball having completely rotted off,” city administrator Roger Holter said. “From outward appearances, it was still a good, healthy tree.”

But the oak, standing beside the park drive entrance near the museum, didn’t have roots to withstand the rain and wind that sent it crashing onto Main St., taking with it a nearby walnut that also was defective.

So the city brought in an expert, followed by a high-tech drill, to inspect the rest of the trees in the park.

“Pam Byer is trained as an aborist, and she went through the park and confirmed some of our suspicions,” Holter said.

A specialized drill with a 30-inch bit used by Kansas Power Pool to test the integrity of wooden power poles also has the ability to be programmed for different kinds of trees, Holter said.

“It measures the resistance to the drill as it’s going through,” he said. “The trees were tested, and only the ones that showed weakness at or below ground level were marked for removal. Three of the biggest ones were around the playground equipment, but that’s probably one of the most used areas daily.”

One of the trees took out a piece of playground equipment, a child’s digger, when it fell, reinforcing the safety aspect of removing weak trees, Holter said.

Byer said one tree had a light string wrapped around it about 12 to 15 feet up that the trunk had grown around, compromising its health.

The remaining trees are in good shape for now, Byer said.

“We are so lucky that we have established good trees that are going to be here for a long time,” she said. “There will be a gradual turnover.”

Part of that turnover includes planned plantings to replace trees that come out.

“We’re going to get some in the ground this spring,” Byer said.

Various uses of the park need to be considered when selecting the kinds of trees and where they will go, Byer said.

Holter and Byer shared the same sentiment about one variety that won’t be replanted.

“No more walnuts,” Byer said.

Walnuts and walnut pods present unnecessary safety hazards for pedestrians and interfere with ongoing maintenance, Holter said.

“We’ve already had some individuals com forward and ask if they could plant one and put a memorial with it,” Holter said. “We hadn’t planned to solicit that, but we have always taken memorials for the park and utilized those funds for projects. A lot of people have vested history and memories in that park, and we want to be able to facilitate that if that’s what people want to do.”

Byer said replanting success depends on getting saplings that aren’t too big, no more than 1½ inches in diameter.

“The bigger the tree, the more chance you have of having a shock,” she said. “Smaller trees will stabilize a lot easier. There are some perfect spots in between big trees to be planted, and in 10 years it will be a shade tree.”

Byer said park users should be mindful of how people act around trees and step in to stop potentially harmful activities.

“The whole community needs to help,” she said.

Last modified Feb. 7, 2018

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