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Hazardous Trees Being Removed from Belle Isle

The work is being done to make the park safer for employees and guests, officials said.

This hollow tree, which wouldn't necessarily have outward symptoms, was recently removed from Belle Isle. Photo credit: Michigan DNR
This hollow tree, which wouldn't necessarily have outward symptoms, was recently removed from Belle Isle. Photo credit: Michigan DNR
Department of Natural Resources (DNR) employees were on Belle Isle last week and will be on the island several more days this week to continue hazardous-tree removal and disposal work that began last month. This effort is part of the department’s strategic transition work, as Belle Isle moves closer to becoming Michigan’s 102nd state park on Feb. 10.

“This work is about preserving public safety around trees at this high-use park and to improve the health of the remaining trees and forests on Belle Isle,” said Kevin Sayers, coordinator of the DNR’s Urban Forestry Program. “Trees that presented the greatest risk were marked for removal, while others will be pruned to reduce potential hazards and to minimize spread of tree diseases.”

DNR Forest Resources Division staff trained in hazard-tree assessment first inspected the trees, using a process followed by the U.S. Forest Service and by the DNR in other Michigan state parks and campgrounds. The majority of trees marked and felled showed obvious signs of hazard conditions.

“Trees were visually inspected for structural defects, hollow cavities and root issues,” said Ron Murray, DNR forest health supervisor. “Trees with cracks, signs of rot, wounds or suspected cavities were drilled with a small diameter bit to determine if enough sound wood remained to reasonably support the trees.”

Tree-felling operations are being performed by DNR forest fire officers and DNR parks and recreation staff specially trained in hazard-tree removal. Current tree removal work will take place near Sunset, Strand, Woodside, Vista and Lakeside Drive. As staff determines any additional tree removal work, that information will be shared with the public.

Most of the tree debris is heavily decayed or contains nails and metal, limiting its potential uses. In mid-December, some of the felled trees were ground to mulch using a horizontal wood grinder donated for a day by Mid-Michigan Recycling.

Sayers said parks pose an inherently challenging environment for trees.

“In addition to storm damage and other natural events, trees can be injured by lawnmowers, string-trimmers, soil compaction and normal park activity,” he said. “A large number of Belle Isle trees have been unknowingly injured by visitors who empty burning charcoal from picnic grills at the base of living trees. This can create a wound and decay at the base of the tree that eventually compromises its structural integrity and safety.”

The DNR’s Parks and Recreation Division is currently exploring options for planting replacement trees, including donations, partnerships and expansion of its existing relationship with the Michigan Department of Corrections’ horticultural training program.

All in for Belle Isle

The important tree assessment and removal work on Belle Isle is one more step in the park’s transition to becoming Michigan’s 102nd state park under a lease agreement between the state and the city of Detroit. Many partners, including the city of Detroit, the Michigan Department of Transportation, the Belle Isle Conservancy and the Belle Isle Advisory Committee, have committed to being “All in for Belle Isle” – working together to ensure visitors a safe, enjoyable and memorable outdoor recreation experience on the island.

When the transition period ends Feb. 10, the DNR will begin phasing in requirement of the Recreation Passport for vehicles entering Belle Isle. The Passport – $11 for resident vehicles, $5 for resident motorcycles – can easily be purchased when a driver renews his or her license plate registration through Secretary of State, or can be bought at the park.

Belle Isle and beyond

In addition to Belle Isle, the Recreation Passport gets the holder’s vehicle into all state forest campgrounds, boat launches, trailhead parking, and Michigan state parks and recreation areas, including many – Bald Mountain Recreation AreaDodge 4 State ParkHighland Recreation AreaIsland Lake Recreation AreaMaybury State ParkMilliken State ParkProud Lake Recreation Area and Sterling State Park – in the metro Detroit area.

The Recreation Passport applies only to vehicles – not individuals. Pedestrians, bicyclists and those using public transportation can enter Belle Isle for free and will not need the Passport. Learn more about this creative way to sustain Michigan’s state parks and outdoor recreation opportunities at www.michigan.gov/recreationpassport.

Log on to www.belleislepark.org for more information on the transition of Belle Isle to Michigan’s 102nd state park. 

(Story courtesy of Michigan DNR.)

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