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Diseased ash trees given new purpose

Parnership promotes uses for wood from diseased trees

Author: Chris Gothner, cgothner@wisctv.com

Published On: Sep 08 2016 10:26:07 AM CDT Updated On: Sep 08 2016 11:26:56 AM CDT

MADISON, Wis. –

A partnership between the Madison Parks Division and Wisconsin Urban Wood, an organization that works with businesses to promote sustainable wood sourced from urban trees, is allowing for trees affected by the emerald ash borer, an invasive beetle from Asia, to be repurposed into furniture.

An emerald ash borer kills the tree but doesn’t damage its wood, requiring removal of the wood but allowing it to be reused.

“You can see limbs go down…at times, you wouldn’t expect,” Charlie Romines, Madison’s assistant superintendent of park operations, said. “When they fall, they tend to shatter, so it becomes more dangerous for the folks who are around and also for the arborists who have to remove the tree, because it is so brittle.”

Romines estimated that between 10,000 and 11,000 ash trees will need to be removed from city parks. He said no money changes hands in the partnership.

“We are interested in unique ways, ways that serve the interests of both the city and its residents to come up with a way to prevent all of this ash from going straight to the chipper,” Romines said.

Twink Jan-McMahon, the director of Wisconsin Urban Wood, said she hoped the partnership between her organization and the city raised more public awareness to the available uses of urban wood.

“The little bug has been a friend in the end that has helped highlight the fact that so much wood goes to waste,” she said. “With urban wood, there is a beautiful texture and richness.”

The Wood Cycle, a small business located off Fish Hatchery Road in the town of Oregon, is involved in the partnership. It has taken ash trees from Odana Hills Park and turned them into various pieces of furniture available for sale.

Owner Paul Morrison said The Wood Cycle exclusively uses wood from local trees that would have been cut down anyway and sent to the wood chipper. Instead, he said he’s able to use their wood to make a useful product.

“It’s unfortunate that at some point, (the trees) have to go,” Morrison said.

Morrison said Madison’s urban areas have plenty of available, high-quality lumber.

“In most of the Madison-area hardwoods, there’s a variety of uses and some of the beautiful woods in the world,” Morrison said.

Romines said the city has also been able to repurpose wood from diseased ash trees into park benches, playground safety surfacing, maintenance materials and conference tables.

“Ash doesn’t do really good outside,” he said. “But ash does really great as inside furniture. So, actually, the mayor’s conference table is made out of Madison urban wood.”

Additionally, Romines said 12 ash trees from Tenney Park were used in the construction of the recently-built Festival Foods store on Madison’s east side.

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