116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — Cedar Rapids is going on the attack — the Stump Attack.
That’s the name the city has given to the herculean undertaking of grinding down thousands of tree stumps left in city parks and rights of way after trees damaged in last year’s derecho were cut down. Crews tasked with the grinding work have been given T-shirts emblazoned with a “Stump Attack” emblem.
“We’re trying to be as entertaining as possible to our crews that have to be grinding on them for weeks on end,” said Scott Hock, Cedar Rapids’ parks and recreation director.
Hock said the city has about 8,000 stumps in rights of way and another 5,000 stumps in city parks that need to be ground. An in-house crew comprised of parks and public works employees are tackling the stumps while another crew is handling restoration.
Grinding started in mid to late-June and Hock said the crew can grind 20 stumps a day. That means the stump removal process is going to be a lengthy one.
“It’s a couple of years before we get through everything, we’re afraid,” Hock said. “It took us a year to get the trees out. It’s just a slow process for us.”
But Hock said removing the stumps is a key step in helping the community recovering from the devastation of last year’s derecho.
“It’s tough to look and see stump after stump as you’re driving through a community,” he said. “It’s just not the look we want to see for Cedar Rapids. … You have that constant reminder of tree loss.”
Hock said the city is prioritizing work on major thoroughfares to reduce the number of stumps commuters have to see. The city crew will be getting an assist soon, as well. Hock said the city is hoping to contract out for the removal of about 1,000 stumps.
At an estimated $200 per stump, the city is setting aside $200,000 from the general fund for that contract, Hock said. The Federal Emergency Management Agency, which is reimbursing the city for some other derecho recovery costs, doesn’t cover stump removal because it’s not a safety hazard, he said. Hock said he doesn’t have a breakdown on the cost of staff hours for stump grinding.
“We just have to see what it’s going to take,” he said, noting grinding will be weather-dependent and crews won’t clear snow this winter in order to find stumps.
Hock said residents can pay to have stumps ground in the right of way if they choose. However, a permit to do work in the right of way needs to be obtained from the city’s forestry operation. The fee has been waived for 2021.
Otherwise, Hock said the city asks that if anyone has any ornamental or decorative items around their stumps that they remove them to clear the way for the city crew.
Private companies have stayed busy with stump removal, as well. Ben Lammers, the owner, operator and sole employee of Cedar Rapids Stump Removal — which he launched Aug. 31 last year — said while some days are slow, “some days I’m getting my butt kicked.”
And Taz Kammiller, of the Ryan-based Kammiller Tree Service, said his two crews are booked out about two months.
The cost of stump removal is based on the diameter and number of stumps that need ground down, the men said. A visit to a typical Cedar Rapids home takes about 30 to 60 minutes; though Kammiller said he’s done 85 stumps across two days at one home. Lammers is working on a bid for a homeowner with 400 stumps, he said.
Kammiller said homeowners insurance won’t cover stump removal, which typically ranges from $75 to $250 for a typical Cedar Rapids home.
The stump removal process — both for the city and for private contractors — will likely go on for years, Kammiller estimates.
“I think there will be another three year’s worth of work in Cedar Rapids,” he said. “(More trees) will die next year. Some of the trees came back this year because they’re in shock. Next year, they probably won’t leaf out.”
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