Tuesday, January 24, 2012

"We're Doing A Lot Of Triage (Tree-age) Right Now...."

Above: A beloved, heavily damaged beech tree in Sylvester Park, downtown Olympia, will need to be removed. The tree is thought to be 119 years old.

"We're Doing A Lot Of Triage (Tree-age) Right Now...."

by Janine Unsoeld

Yesterday's sunny, almost spring-like weather allowed many people to finally get out and assess the damage resulting from last week's snow and ice storm. State employees, however, have been hard at work throughout the ordeal.

"We're doing a lot of - pardon the pun - triage right now," said MaryGrace Jennings, cultural resource manager for the State Department of Enterprise Services (DES), formerly known as the Department of General Administration. Her responsibilities include facility planning related to historic grounds.

Contacted about fallen trees on state-owned property, Jennings said she has been in meetings with other state agency staff and has developed a list of planned removals, many now underway. First and foremost, crews are dealing with removals that relate to public safety. Enterprise Services has hired three tree service companies to remove broken and fallen branches.

Asked specifically about the historic trees in Sylvester Park, Jennings said a heavily damaged beech tree will have to be removed. "It's gotta come out, but we still have one left," she said.

The tree, thought to be 119 years old, suffered a severe wound a long time ago, resulting in concrete being poured into a gap in the trunk, a former tree preservation practice. One limb that broke off was rotten at the elbow.

"It had a tremendous weak spot...there will be no recovery," said Jennings.

Above: One of two major limbs that broke off of the beech tree in Sylvester Park. In this view, the last remaining beech tree in the park can be seen in the background, near Capitol Way.

Jennings said the area was a public commons until it was landscaped and dedicated in 1893 as a park, to suit the new courthouse, by Edmunds Sylvester. At that time, it was landscaped with two dozen trees.

"The remaining elm tree in the park near Franklin Street lost a lot of limbs but is fine. We will do a hard prune - Europeans are having tremendous success doing this. We are planning to do this but are making no commitments right now, but the elm tree has safety issues that we must address," said Jennings.

Regarding the trees on the Capitol campus, four cherry trees were damaged, and one of the original Olmstead maples on campus may have to be removed. The tree is located near the World War II memorial. "It has already been the subject of bracing, but we may just have to let it die with dignity now," said Jennings.

Above: A heavily damaged Olmstead tree on the Capitol Campus in Olympia.

Another big tree loss is along Deschutes Parkway. Seven elm trees planted after the Nisqually earthquake in 2001 sustained heavy damage and will have to be removed. Jennings said, "They were healthy and well on their way...it's heartbreaking...."

Above: State Department of Enterprise Services gardener Dan Kirschner breaks snow and ice off the sidewalk around Deschutes Parkway yesterday.

Above: Working as a team, State Department of Enterprise Services (DES) gardener Chris Brownell cleans up the path just scraped by DES gardener Dan Kirschner.