Plans take root to replace trees in Joplin tornado’s path

By Mike Penprase
Joplin, MO (July 1, 2011)- As Joplin’s tornado-twisted trees are cut down, some people are pondering how to replace them. It’s likely to be a long-term, expensive task to reforest not only Joplin parks, but city streets and private property. Thousands of trees were damaged or destroyed in the storm, but there aren’t any precise figures available yet, a state Division of Forestry official said.

Replacing trees in two city parks in the path of the May 22 storm will be a big job, City Parks Director Chris Cotten said Thursday. All the trees, valued at $1.2 million, were destroyed in Cunningham and Parr Hill parks, Cotten said. “Every single one of them is gone,” he said. “Some of those trees were 150 years old.” In Cunningham Park alone, 125 trees were destroyed, he said.
Not replacing trees isn’t an option, Cotten said. “We’re going to have to plant them back,” he said. “It’s going to be a while.”
Visitors to state parks are being asked to help. All donations this year to the Odwalla Plant-A-Tree Program will be used in Joplin, Missouri Department of Natural Resources spokeswoman Renee Bungart said. Donation boxes are being put out at state parks and historic sites. The Plant-a-Tree Program allows people across the nation to vote where they want trees planted. Odwalla has earmarked $100,000 to the campaign. Each vote will be equal to $1 that can be used for trees.
The Missouri Department of Conservation has started surveying the entire tornado path to determine how many trees were damaged or destroyed, Division of Forestry forest management chief Mike Hoffman said. The department also has given Joplin three pieces of surplus fire-fighting equipment to replace equipment damaged in the tornado, he said. During their survey, foresters are marking trees that can be saved, Hoffman said. Because Joplin is in a prairie area, tree density isn’t as heavy as some Missouri cities, Hoffman said. “In a lot of ways, that makes the trees they do have more important,” he said.
The division is working with agencies such as the U.S. Forest Service, Hoffman said. The agency has an urban forestry strike team created after Hurricane Katrina, he said. “We are working with the Forest Service to potentially bring that group in later in July,” Hoffman said. A variety of groups have asked what they can do to help plant trees, he said. A widespread tree-planting effort will have to wait until the first cleanup phase is finished, he said. “It probably will be looking more realistically at next fall to get aggressive with tree planting,” Hoffman said.
Related Resources:
News Leader- Plans take root to replace trees in Joplin tornado’s path
Forest ReLeaf of Missouri
Trees for Joplin Aims to Re-plant the City
Once Stately Trees Tell a Tale of Destruction in Joplin