By Brandi Makuski
Stevens Point looks a little different than it did before June 12.
The city lost about 250 public-land trees in the massive wind and rain that struck the area during a late-afternoon storm that day. According to city records, many of those trees were mature and collectively held an assessed value of more than $160K.
“Additionally lost were the services [the trees] were providing annually…storm water reduction, energy savings, air quality, carbon dioxide sequestration, and added property values,” City Forester Todd Ernster wrote in an August memo to the Park Board.
City crews have been clearing downed trees and other debris from the storm ever since, Ernster said last week. That work has left patches of blank space in some local parks — most noticably Iverson Park on the city’s east side.
Now, the replanting is underway with a little help from local students.
“We had a group from Mid-State replant some trees a few days ago; this time it’s a group of students from UWSP,” Ernster said.
The exercise was a good hands-on experience for forestry students, Ernster said, but it also provided free labor to the city, which otherwise would see an expense of about $150 in labor per tree. Every penny counts, Ernster said, because purchasing younger replacement trees will cost the city a little over $80,000.
Dr. Les Werner, a forestry professor at UW-Stevens Point, said it was the best possible learning experience for his arboriculture students.
“We teach that in urban forestry, we do a lot of two things: planting and pruning,” Werner said. “And often, both are done wrong.”
Werner brought about a dozen of his Forestry 331 students to the park on Nov. 2 to plant an assortment of pine and maple trees in specific areas marked by Ernster.
“We’ve just spent two weeks talking about planting trees,” Werner said. “We’re showing them how to plan the tree, not the package — and this is a good thing for the community, too.”