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Damage To City’s Trees Estimated At $3 Million In The Meantime, Entrepreneurs Clean Up In More Ways Than One

The splintered boughs that toppled from Spokane’s urban forest Tuesday quickly turned to gold for some.

Workmen armed with chain saws and pickup trucks roamed neighborhoods Wednesday taking advantage of the sudden demand for cleanup.

City officials, meanwhile, were agonizing over the loss they estimated at $3 million to trees in the city.

One in seven trees sustained damage and one in three may be so bad that they’ll need to be cut down, officials said.

“The parks staff were almost in tears looking at the damage that was going on,” said Taylor Bressler, city park oerations division manager. “We get kind of emotional about trees.”

Jack Thomas and Paul Brownfield, both of Spokane, took a more businesslike approach to the glut of downed wood.

They cleared $200 Wednesday afternoon removing a fallen tree and debris from a home at Lincoln and Mansfield.

Homeowner Terry Barr wasn’t upset. He said he thought he was getting a fair deal.

Another yard service worker said he lined up early Wednesday to buy a chain saw, then hired his son and a friend to help out, and pocketed $675.

Elsewhere, contractor Michael Lumpkins couldn’t finish a building job, so he hitched up his trailer and went looking for another kind of work. “I can’t pour concrete because it’s too cold,” he said.

Regular tree service companies were overwhelmed with calls. “Our phones have not stopped ringing,” said Terrie Overbey at Spokane’s Ray McElfish Tree Specialists.

All of the damage raises a question of how many trees will be left standing come next spring.

Parks officials said 30 to 35 percent of Spokane’s trees may be beyond saving.

Bressler said homeowners might want to wait until spring to see if a tree is going to live before deciding to remove it.

Tree experts said pruning, especially on a tree with severe damage, requires a professional assessment. They recommend homeowners talk with someone knowledgeable about horticulture.

In recent years, the city has been developing an urban forestry program to improve the health of city trees.

The city has about 50,000 street trees, according to an inventory finished just this month.

There are another 30,000 trees in parks, and an estimated 80,000 trees on private property in the city for a total of at least 160,000 trees citywide.

Many trees are old or in poor condition. Those fared the worst in the ice storm.

“Old trees really showed their age,” Bressler said.

Some trees withstood the hammering better. Oaks are strong, but they bend. Other hardwoods can support the weight of ice.

Maples were beaten, but many will survive, Bressler said. The same goes for ponderosa pines, which are adapted to severe weather.

The trees that sustained the greatest damage have soft wood or grow fast. They include willows, sycamores, cottonwoods, firs, silver maples and black locusts.

Black locusts, which are common on Spokane’s North Side and are 90 to 100 years old, were virtually stripped in many places.

Sycamores in Riverfront Park were ripped apart, and several will be removed. Willows on the riverbank in the park were disfigured, too.

Firs at Underhill Park were hit bad, as were the trees lining 21st Avenue on the South Hill.

“We are talking tons and tons of cord wood,” Bressler said. “We’ll try to save as many as possible.”

, DataTimes MEMO: “After the Storm” special section

“After the Storm” special section