Ice Storms Destroy A Century Of Growth

Friday, February 23rd 2007, 9:53 am
By: News On 6

Emergency workers are sawing down a century's worth of trees in Muskogee; they're the latest causalities of January’s ice storm. News on 6 anchor Scott Thompson reports now that most of the town is up and running crews have turned their attention to the city's historic parks.

The spray-painted numbers on the trees go backwards from 43; it’s a countdown to cut down.

"There's trees here that are 100 years old," Muskogee Parks Director Mark Wilkerson said.

Wilkerson says that almost half of Spaulding Park's hundred trees will be axed, including some that are more than a century old. Oklahoma's ice storm was a death sentence for the trees; ice-laden limbs snapped under the weight of the ice, and trees that lost more than half of their canopies don't stand much of a chance of survival.

Wilkerson says not a single tree escaped nature's wrath. Those that won't be cut down, had to be severely pruned back.

"That's what's kind of depressing about this," Wilkerson said. "This is by far the worst for our whole community, and obviously the parks take the largest hit with these great trees, but it's a huge job."

Wilkerson says even more damage was done at Honor Heights Park where 15-feet of one tree’s trunk simply split. But the plants many are worried about lie beneath the broken limbs, Muskogee's famous azaleas.

"Azaleas can be replanted and be back to a mature size in four or five years, where these trees are in some cases 100 years, 50 to 100 years old, so you can't just simply replace that," he said.

FEMA is working on the biggest jobs, while Muskogee parks employees are cleaning up more sensitive areas, like around the azaleas. Any way you slice it, crews say they feel they're cutting into the roots of the community.

The News on 6 spoke with FEMA workers Friday, they plan to be in Muskogee for at least three more weeks. Mark Wilkerson says it would've taken the city years to clean up without their help.