750 new trees to be planted along Indian Creek

Cedar Rapids officials replacing forest lost in sewer project

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CEDAR RAPIDS — 750 saplings.

That’s what $477,966 allocated last week by the Cedar Rapids City Council is going to buy to help reforest a swath of land parallel to Indian Creek in Cedar Rapids.

The land — about 36 acres along the Sac and Fox Trail near Mount Vernon Road — was once populated with mature trees. But many, some on purpose and some by accident, were wiped out four years ago as part of a city sewer project.

Todd Fagan, arborist for the city of Cedar Rapids, says officials hope to begin planting a variety of new saplings in September with subsequent plantings in the spring and fall of 2017. The city is in the process of accepting bids for the young trees. A sapling is generally described as an immature tree with a slender trunk measuring 2 to 10 feet. Fagan said the trees being purchased for this project would have a trunk diameter of 1 to 2 inches.

He said three saplings are being purchased for every one mature tree that was lost.

“We know they’re not all going to survive long term,” he said. “If you plant one small tree, you’re not getting the same benefits of that large tree.”

News of the tree planting is music to Hallie LeMaster’s ears.

She’s lived on Hickory Boulevard SE near that section of the Sac and Fox Trail her entire life and noticed when the trees were cleared.

“When you’re on Mount Vernon Road now, you can see all the way through and you never used to be able to,” LeMaster said. “It was kind of more of an intimate trail.”

The sewer project in which the trees were lost involved widening pipe along Indian Creek that feeds into the main sewer line along the Cedar River from 42 inches to 60 inches. The work was part of a multiphase, $10 million project started in 2002 to improve waste management for Cedar Rapids, Marion, Hiawatha, Robbins, Palo and a small county subdivision, said Dave Wallace, Cedar Rapids sewer utility engineering manager.

The accommodate the new sewer line, many trees were marked for removal. Some trees marked to be saved, however, were also damaged in 2012 when workers from S.J. Louis Construction Inc. of Rockville, Minnesota, were clearing timber for the sewer project. Cedar Rapids Parks Superintendent Daniel Gibbins said the roots of 28 mature sycamore and oak trees were damaged and a majority of the trees had to come down.

At the time, local officials, including representatives from the Indian Creek Nature Center, expressed frustration over the accident.

However, Fagan said there is a silver lining, as officials plan to plant 12 varieties of saplings in the area, which is to create a more stable and disease-resistant forest.

Fagan said hardwoods such as oaks, elms, hybrid elms, hickory, coffeetrees and other hardwoods are to be planted in that area. These species are more beneficial for native bugs, too, he added.

“Most people have a desire to keep trees around,” he said. “Residents who use the trail were upset about the loss of canopy. If you’re taking down a tree in someone’s backyard, they’re going to care much more than 10 miles away.”

LeMaster, her husband, Mitch, and other residents in the neighborhood agreed. “We were all talking about it because it was so close to us,” LeMaster said. “It bothered us because it was so pretty. I know they did it for sewage purposes, but it was just sad. It just didn’t have the same feel it used to.”

LeMaster said she is glad to hear the city is replacing the trees and that they’ll mature by the time her son, who is 11 months old now, is old enough to use the Sac and Fox Trail.

“I just think it’s a beautiful feature,” she said. “Being able to see all the huge mature trees that had been here for years, it’s part of history.”

l Comments: (319) 368-8516; makayla.tendall@thegazette.com

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