Tree chippers keep running at WSU

11:59:00 AM CDT - Thursday, January 20, 2005

By Amy Geiszler-Jones

One of WSU's most used pieces of landscaping equipment these days might well be its tree chipper.

A stretch of warmer weather has allowed the more than 20 landscaping workers to spend more time cleaning up the limbs that have littered the 330-acre campus since an unusually harsh ice storm hit the area in early January.

But it'll be a number of weeks before landscape crews get the campus cleaned up, according to Physical Plant director Woody DePontier and landscape technician Mary Ann Covalt.

Large trunks are being hauled to a wood recycling center, while smaller limbs will be chipped up to make their way back eventually onto campus grounds as mulch.

"It seems like it has been going constantly," Covalt said.

As was the case all over the city, Siberian elms were perhaps the trees that were particularly hard hit by the ice, but oaks, ash and locust trees also lost limbs, Covalt said. A group of cedars near Wilner Auditorium, among the first trees planted on the campus in the early 1900s, suffered some damage, but limbs from another nearby tree are lodged in the top of the trees.

The same crews that are working on the limb cleanup also handle the university's "ice and snow chores," said DePontier, which could delay the cleanup if inclement weather strikes again.

Covalt said rough estimates indicate 85 to 90 percent of WSU's trees suffered some type of damage. Some may need to be removed and replaced. The university normally prunes and replaces trees throughout the year. Some landscape employees are trained arborists, said Covalt.

The university doesn't expect to incur any additional costs because of the storm since it is using its own crews during normal work hours to clean up the damage.

The cleanup schedule for Braeburn Golf Course is similar to that on campus it'll be weeks before all the damage is cleaned up, according to John Wright, chief operating officer for Reflection Ridge Golf Management Group. The management group is the contracted operator for Braeburn and is responsible for expenses involved in maintaining the grounds. Its chipper has been running constantly as well, and a second one may be rented, Wright said.

The group also has hired a contractor to top off the trees and clean up "aerial" damage, such as hanging limbs. If the federal government declares Wichita eligible for public FEMA aid, federal funds may be sought to help with the Braeburn cleanup costs, Wright said. Because of the inclement weather and wet grounds, the golf course has not been open. It may be open this weekend (Jan. 22-23), depending on the weather and grounds condition, Wright said.

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