Outdoor Services Crew

Friday, December 9, 2011

Fall Storms Wreak Havoc on Campus Trees

Once again, the Boulder Valley was visited by an autumn snow storm massively damaging trees throughout our campus.  Many of our trees were still very much in leaf causing them to catch enormous amounts of the ice and snow as it fell early in the mornings of October 26th and November 2nd.  The damage to campus trees was among the worst of the last several decades affecting, in some way, nearly every tree on campus.
This event tested our work unit in a variety of way.  It also presented us another opportunity to work with our colleagues in Housing Services, Athletics and CUPD, as well as the City of Boulder. 

Our immediate concerns and actions were aimed at identifying and mitigating the dozens of hazardous situations created by the snow loaded limbs which were failing and shedding off of trees all over the university grounds.  The storm was indiscriminate, harming trees of all species, size, age and condition.

The entire Outdoor Services team, as well as many members of other Facilities Management shops, helped by responding to emergency issues as they surfaced throughout campus.  Staff began pulling down damaged hanging limbs that they could reach and taping off areas where limbs were dangling high above sidewalks and building entries.  We reacted to the largest and most dangerous situations with our Versalift truck as soon as the terrain was passable, pulling down large limbs that were snagged up in the canopies of the higher trees.  We will be going back to all of these sites to conduct canopy inspections and make clean-up and finish cuts.  That work will take months to complete.

Once the weather had let up enough for us to access most areas with our lift truck, we divided the entire Outdoor Services team into units to begin the clean-up process.  The crew of Arborists assembled a ground support team and continued to remove high hazards.  The rest of OS created teams to buck up the larger branches on the ground, load and transport this material, and operate mobile stations to chip the wood and brush into roll-off dumpsters.  We also assisted the Housing Department Grounds staff with their clean-up and chipping.  All of this material was taken off campus and ran through tub grinders to be utilized as mulch material.  The OS crews did an outstanding and efficient job of handling the huge amount of material they faced.   We were very happy to have completed this difficult and dangerous task without any known injury to any of our staff or to the public.

A small number of trees were damaged severely enough to warrant immediate removal.   Many more were damaged to an extent that will require us to assess, over the coming months, if we can retain them and nurse them back to health or conclude to remove them.

Thanks to Ryan Heiland for the photos.

-Vince Aquino