City workers clearing trails (Photo by Red Deer Advocate staff).

Many skilled Red Deer tree removers are in B.C. helping with wildfire control

Insurance Bureau of Canada estimated more than $30-million of insured damage was caused by the windstorm

British Columbia wildfires are playing into the continued closure of Red Deer’s Gaetz Lakes Sanctuary.

The City’s parks superintendent, Trevor Poth said he can’t get the usual skilled local contractors to help remove fallen trees from the high-risk area because many have gone to B.C. to help clear bush and create fire barriers around the besieged communities of 100 Mile House and Williams Lake.

He hoped by the end of Monday to have tracked down other contractors, who can hopefully spend the next couple of weeks cleaning up the Wishart Trail, which has been closed since the June 21 windstorm.

Poth can’t firmly predict how long it will take to clear the trail, however, since the work will be tricky and potentially hazardous.

Whenever workers lift and remove some of the broken fallen tree trunks, he said the bent-over trees beneath that had been pinned down can sometimes spring back up, producing a “sling-shot effect.”

“It’s slow, technical, high-risk work that requires skilled, specialized contractors,” Poth added. It’s also labour intensive. Since the nature trail is impassable to vehicles, including cranes, all of the tree removal must be done by hand.

The four-kilometre loop within the Gaetz Lakes Sanctuary is the only section of Red Deer park trail that still remains closed. Staff at the adjacent Kerry Wood Nature Centre have stated the standing trees need to be assessed for stability by a forester so hikers aren’t at risk of a wind gust sending a tree toppling on them.

Poth said parks workers — sometimes helped by staff from other departments — have been busy making streets, trails and boulevards safe for the community. They are assessing, as well as pruning or chopping down broken trees, and collecting dead wood for chipping.

The site of each tree that’s been taken down will be studied for the possibility of replanting. Poth said it’s not a given that each fallen tree will be replaced. A budget for this hasn’t been established yet. And in some areas, utility lines have been installed more recently, so replanting at these sites might be unsuitable, or even dangerous.

“We can’t make accurate plans for replanting before we have an accurate scope of what’s been removed.”

The Insurance Bureau of Canada estimated more than $30-million of insured damage was caused by the windstorm in Red Deer, including private property.

The cost to the City of Red Deer won’t be known until each city department calculates expenditures, and discovers how much provincial assistance is available, said Poth, who believes costs will be tabulated by the end of August.

lmichelin@reddeeradvocate.com

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