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Tree removal, another 'Wood Week' planned

By DARREL RADFORD - dradford@thecouriertimes.com

What comes down will go back up where trees are concerned in New Castle’s Baker Park.

Monday, trees became the dominant topic for the New Castle Parks and Recreation Board as members discussed work already under way in front of the skatepark as well as efforts planned to remove dead trees across the street inside Baker Park, replacing them with new ones.

The conversation also included details of the second “Wood Week” in which interested residents may come and cut up and haul away wood from trees city employees take down.

Despite some negative comments on Facebook about tree removal work on the east side of Main Street across from the park, Mayor Greg York and parks board members agreed the area already looks better.

“We held on as long as we needed to so we’d have a little bit of green in there, but they were dead,” New Castle Parks and Recreation Director Mike Bergum said. “A lot of them were hollow inside and limbs were falling.” 

“They were ash trees,” York added. “The ash borer just ate them up. We’re replacing them with maple and red buds, healthy trees.”

Even before the trees are replaced, officials believe the appearance of the heavily visited area is much improved.

“It looks so much better,” Bergum said. “The aesthetics are going to be nicer. That area is going to be refurbished. Once they come down, you can tell the difference between dead trees standing there and dead trees being down.”

“We’re going to get the stumps removed prior to winter setting in so that project will be completely done,” Bergum added. “In the spring, we’ll try to plant some new trees accenting the row that’s already there.”

SECOND WOOD WEEK PLANNED

Meanwhile, plans are in place to cleanse Baker Park of more than 60 trees identified as dead – with local residents in need of wood once again invited to help.

Last year, 45 trees in Osborne Park came down during what was called “Wood Week.” This year, Baker will be the focus for a “Wood Week” running from Dec. 7-15, weather permitting.

“We will advertise for individuals and groups to come in and sign a waiver,” Bergum explained. “We’ll fall the trees, they will be able to cut them up and haul them out.

Bergum thinks this year’s “Wood Week” will be easier for local residents than last year’s event.

“In Baker, there’s a little bit more room to play with,” Bergum explained. “The weather didn’t treat us very well when we did the wood week last year. It had rained and the ground had softened up a little bit. We had to repair some ruts there.

“We’ll try to take trees where people can just literally drive up, cut them up and haul them out,” Bergum said. “There’s a lot of work saved by community members coming in and doing that.”

OTHER BUSINESS

• The New Castle Parks and Recreation Department will once again have $50,000 to work with in 2020, thanks the recently approved city budget.

Board President Patty Broyles asked fellow members to be thinking of what priorities should be for that money in the year ahead.

“This budget is truly a gift,” Broyles said. 

Bergum said a couple of items from last year have been carried over.

“When needs came up, we had some money to do some things we wouldn’t have been able to do in the past,” Bergum said. “It worked out great. I think next year will be even better.”

• Broyles complimented the mayor on new lights that have recently gone up in the Baker Park area. The lamp posts are the same design as those installed in downtown New Castle.

• Parks and Recreation Director Bergum said the New Castle Armory continues to be a busy place. Recent activities there have included Special Olympics every Monday night; a club volleyball program; four weddings in the past month; the Hospital gala; a cancer awareness fundraiser; a chili cook-off event; three birthday parties; high school boys basketball conditioning, since volleyball team is heading to state finals; downstairs batting cage rentals; and 3-on-3 basketball league action.

“It’s a great facility and being utilized a lot,” Bergum said. “We’re getting tons of positive feedback.”

• Park Board members approved what has become an annual request from Bruce Roberts on behalf of the New Castle Bluegrass group, which invites musicians to come and “jam” each first Monday of the month from May through October. Roberts said the group has drawn as many as 125 people at times from many different locations, even as far away as Illinois and Missouri.

“It has turned out to be one of the largest gathering places for senior citizens weekly in New Castle,” Roberts said, citing an average of 80 people each time the group meets. “We’d like to thank all of you for letting us have that shelterhouse each Monday. It means a lot to us.”

Roberts did make a suggestion to the parks board as it plans for 2020. He asked that lights Baker Shelter No. 1 be upgraded and even volunteered to help remove the old lights if needed.