Miller & Pomona

Stopped. Watched. icon

This morning I was dismayed at the sounds of another 150 year old 38″+ diameter Elm on Miller (100 feet from my home) being mulched. We estimate, at the minimum, this sentinel tree would yield 1,000 to 1,500 board feet of good hardwood lumber. What happened to the momentum we started two years ago to put a policy in place that would provide a mechanism to utilize such trees much better than mulch or landfill? [photo] [photo]

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  1. By Paul Hickman
    December 20, 2011 at 4:38 pm | permalink

    Ask your city council person “Why does Ann Arbor, “Tree City” NOT have a policy to utilize these downed trees to their maximum potential instead of their minimum, MULCH”! This is a waste of our natural resources and a crime against this tree.

    Ann Arbor mulches all of the city trees regardless of their specie, size or value. None see higher utilization. Many other cities, including FLINT are using their city trees for much better things than mulch.

    Please help me in contacting your city council members as well as sharing this information.

  2. By Mary Morgan
    December 20, 2011 at 4:58 pm | permalink

    Here’s a link with contact info (emails and addresses) for the mayor and city council: [link]

  3. December 20, 2011 at 5:48 pm | permalink

    Mary — The link at the bottom of the page you’ve connected us to, which supposedly emails the whole group en masse is no good, maybe purposefully so. Unless it’s been changed recently it will bounce back as undeliverable because the delimiter between the email addresses is incorrect. It’s either a comma or a semi-colon, when the other should have been used, I forget which. Dave provided a good link months ago, I forget where.

  4. By abc
    December 21, 2011 at 9:07 am | permalink

    And it is interesting to note that as a living tree this tree would be afforded the protection of being declared a ‘Landmark Tree’ within the city as elms larger than 18″ in diameter fall into this category. It is not widely known but trees as small as 8″ diameter are considered landmark in the city and have to be protected.

    To remind myself of the specifics of the city’s landmark tree ordinance I googled it. Along with what I was looking for I also found an article in the Town Crier which contained the following:

    “In a recent interview, Hieftje said his favorite Ann Arbor tree had been a huge elm at his childhood home, but it died several years ago.”

    I guessed they mulched that too.

    How much MORE satisfying would it be for the mayor to stroke the edge of a desk and say this slab was cut from my favorite tree… taken from my childhood home.

    And sentimentalism aside, the wood from these trees can be far more interesting than what is farmed and sold at lumberyards.

  5. December 21, 2011 at 12:19 pm | permalink

    I think this should work: E-Mail Mayor and Council

  6. By Marilyn
    December 21, 2011 at 1:43 pm | permalink

    Elm is really not considered marketable. It has a nasty grain and really isn’t good for much. As a child I remember many stately elms around Ann Arbor. You still see the odd one in fields, standing proudly by themselves.But the dutch elm disease took them. That is a good reason not to plant so many of the same type of tree.

  7. By pmh
    December 21, 2011 at 2:29 pm | permalink

    It is true that Elm wood can be challenging to work with due to it’s interlocking grain. However, I personally use several species of Elm in my furniture and picture frame company. It requires more work but when done the wood is spectacular and very durable due to the same interlocking grain. In addition, I know that Elm is also very desirable for trailer decks again due to that tough and durable grain. To me, these are much better uses than mulch.

    This particular Elm on Miller is also a concern to me because it has been dead from Dutch Elm Disease for well over a year. This means the beetles that cause the disease have left for other trees. I have three beautiful large American Elms in my yard less than 200ft away. I will be watching them very closely now.

  8. December 21, 2011 at 4:09 pm | permalink

    I live about 1/2 mile from there, had to remove a very large, beautiful Elm about four years ago because of the disease, and even if it did not have the disease, preventative injections would have cost $800 – $900 a year as I recall, so the tree had to go — especially after a fallen limb cost me $1200 in body repair on the car.

    I had Guardian cut it down, and asked them if they would harvest the wood, the reply was they weren’t equipped, and it would probably be a waste of time. Now they are a respected local forestry company, with an interest in making money of course, so if there’s no profit for them, why quibble? Once down it was clear the whole tree was riddled through with worm holes, I defy you to find enough wood in that whole tree to even make a baseball bat. A month later, the next door neighbor came to the same decision, and had a different company remove his tree with the same result.

    So PMH, harvest those trees while you can, they’re toast, no Elm in this neighborhood stands a chance. Seems I’ve heard a lot of woodpeckers recently, if that means anything. Been hearing a rooster too, somebody with backyard chickens has run a-foul of the law, I’m afraid, but that’s another story.

    In the case of the Miller Elm, the city is right. As far as the street Maple on Felch Street, the city is both right and wrong. The tree is probably dead, and the city foresters are right to want to remove it; BUT the city engineers who dug through the root system to replace pipe, instead of using pipe bursting techniques, doomed it at the start, and should have known better.

  9. By abc
    December 21, 2011 at 4:47 pm | permalink

    @ Marilyn

    Markets are made. In the ‘50’s food became industrialized and shipped all over the world. Slowly we came to believe that it is not unreasonable to expect ripe tomatoes in January. The same notion can be applied to wood. Woodworkers used to work with locally available materials and while they would pick and chose their woods, they had to select from what was nearby. Also, as PMH points out, they were willing to work with ‘difficult’ species because they performed so much better.

    Older buildings also had a range of woods in them, selected for tor their job not uniformity of species. What is also interesting (at least to me) in some regions of the country buildings were built with unexpected species like walnut, chestnut etc. That’s what grew there so that’s what they used.

    @ cosmonican

    Sometimes that riddling is what makes the wood special; the decaying process is not without its own aesthetic. Think old metal roofs, mossy field stones, barn wood…

    But then again sometimes the stuff is just too rotten to work with. But its good to try.

  10. December 21, 2011 at 9:04 pm | permalink

    There are at least two local tree services for those in need of felling a tree and wish to utilize the wood (assuming it is in good shape) beyond mulching it. The Lumberjacks and Shady Tree. There are many sawyers and mills that process strictly urban salvaged wood. The Urban Wood Project website has a listing and good information on this topic. [link]

    Another good source of information is Katherine Salant’s article “Backyard Tree Could Be Your New Floor”. The article does a good job of covering most of the ins and outs of “urban wood”. [link]

  11. By Marilyn
    December 22, 2011 at 8:53 pm | permalink

    PMH, where are your elms less than 200 ft. away? I could only find the elm that they cut on the city tree inventory map.

  12. December 22, 2011 at 9:14 pm | permalink

    @ Marilyn – There are 3 American Elms in my back yard just North of the tree being cut down on Miller.

  13. By Marilyn
    December 23, 2011 at 7:45 am | permalink

    Paul, I just realized the tree inventory map only includes trees on public property – extensions, parks, etc. That explains things a bit. I guess in the inventory, the elms only make up about 3% of all trees. I had thought that pretty much all of the elms were gone by now due to the disease. We have 6 very large maples in our country yard. I believe one of them is just about dead. It looked terrible this year. We will certainly miss it. We had standing water in our yard way into June this year. Very unusual and bad for tree roots. We have ponds on properties to the east and south of us.

  14. By Chai
    December 23, 2011 at 9:11 pm | permalink

    Two paths diverged in a yellow wood
    and sorry I could not travel both and be one traveler
    long I stood and looked down one as long as I could
    to where it bend in the undergrowth.

  15. By Marilyn
    December 24, 2011 at 8:06 am | permalink

    Thank you Chai.

  16. By Ron
    December 24, 2011 at 10:12 am | permalink

    Thanks for the info about that tree. I didn’t know it was an elm. One thing I do know is because of its huge trunk, it is large enough to block your view when exiting Pomona onto Miller. More than once I looked to the right, saw no car coming and looked left and then tried moving out onto Miller only to see a car coming at me that had been hidden behind that tree to my right. Now it’s look left, look right then look left again. Despite this small problem, I wish the tree was healthy and didn’t need to be taken down. It will be a big loss.

  17. December 24, 2011 at 10:27 am | permalink

    The links given are quite helpful. The Salant article makes an important point, namely the difficulty of bringing down a large tree in an urban setting so that sufficient lengths of lumber can be obtained. We had a large elm that was between us and the adjoining neighbor (not a street tree). It finally succumbed to Dutch Elm Disease (at least, those were the symptoms) and our tree service removed it section by section, succeeding in taking down neither the fence, the neighbor’s air conditioning unit, nor his roof.

    Some tree services in the area do recycle wood as firewood – of course this adds to carbon dioxide release, but it is still a reuse.

    BTW, we still have two huge elms along our property line on the other side. I think that street trees were especially vulnerable to DED because of root grafts, but volunteer specimens are perhaps a little luckier. They are magnificent trees.

  18. December 31, 2011 at 12:52 am | permalink

    The latest chapter in this story… We were able to save the 12′ x 40″+ butt log of this Elm tree from the mulch pile and from being burned. We were also able to get the 10′x24″ butt log of the Tulip Poplar tree that came down next to the Elm. Both are now at the mill ready to be processed for furniture, frames and many other things better than mulch or firewood. A bit of work, but very doable. Thank you Lawrence Arbor Care (a local tree service) for all of your cooperation, patience and communication. Thank you Jason Tervol of Tervol’s Wood Products for picking up the logs and processing them.

  19. By Steve Bean
    January 1, 2012 at 12:25 pm | permalink

    Thank you, Paul, for being sane and acting on it.