In recent years, we have been seeing more hazardous trees along our public nature trails. This comes as a result of insect pests - like the emerald ash borer - and diseases – like beech leaf disease – which are growing more common, and can lead to weakened or dying trees that are more susceptible to falling. With the frequency and intensity of storms dramatically increasing as well, dead and dying trees pose even more of a risk to trail users and to our preserve neighbors. The numbers show a clear trend: each year, we are investing more time and financial resources on removing hazard trees across our protected lands
When possible, we clear downed trees and limbs from the trails ourselves and with the help of volunteers. Conservation staff members have completed the Game of Logging Chainsaw Safety Training, a two-day training where they were taught how to safely fell and remove storm-damaged and dangerous trees. But not every tree can be safely handled by staff and volunteers, and that’s when we hire professional tree services that have the appropriate equipment and advanced expertise. It varies, but on average, hired contractors remove 10+ trees a year from our properties, and the cost of taking down just one can be anywhere from $2,600 to $4,000, depending on its location and the equipment and personnel needed. The time that staff and volunteers spend on clearing trails for safety and accessibility has been rising over the years, and so have our costs for professional removal services.
If you’ve walked down any of our trails following a storm, you might notice that although we move debris out of the way, we don’t remove it. Instead, we leave sections of cut up trees and large limbs to become a part of the landscape. Where possible, we create brush piles – places that wildlife can take refuge, and that provide many of the necessities they need to survive throughout the year. And if a tree falls in a muddy section of the trail, we will slice it into rings to use as stepping stones—which keeps visitors’ feet dry and prevents further trail erosion. When we hire contractors to take down dead, standing trees, we ask them to leave the trunks where they fall, so that they can become nurse logs for plants, habitat for salamanders and other wildlife, and eventually, new soil. Learn more.
As we lose these mature trees, we do our best to restore the habitat that is lost by replanting with indigenous species that will not only benefit wildlife and water quality, but that are also projected to survive future climate conditions. From 2016 to 2023, staff and volunteers have planted approximately 3,000 native trees and shrubs on our nature preserves.
Trail visitor safety, protecting neighboring properties, and managing habitats are priorities for us—but they come with a cost. From staff time, to professional tree services, to purchasing plants, we are spending more and more each year. On average, the annual cost of managing hazardous trees and replanting far exceeds $20,000.
This Giving Tuesday, help us raise $15,000 to weather these storms and support hazard tree management, as well as planting the next generation of trees and shrubs in the Wissahickon Watershed.
All Giving Tuesday donors will receive a “I ♥ Wissahickon Trails” outdoor magnet.