On August 10, with little time to prepare, a derecho storm tore through Cedar Rapids and created an impact that will be felt for years. With wind speeds of more than 100 mph, the trees that had been the background of our homes and neighborhoods twisted, snapped, and fell. In an instant, the places we knew best were unrecognizable. What had taken generations to grow, toppled in minutes.
As cleanup continues, we grapple with the impact and grief over the loss of mature trees which contributed to the character of our community. The structural loss in Cedar Rapids is estimated to be over $100 million dollars, with more than half of our tree canopy affected.
Recovery and regrowth of our trees will not be quick, but we approach it optimistically as an opportunity to build a strong urban forest that will help us address environmental challenges for the future. We are gathering ideas from around the country and assembling a coalition of partners that will help us as we replant and regrow. We are confident the efforts we take in the next few years will make Cedar Rapids more sustainable for generations. As we have done in the past, Cedar Rapids will recover again, even stronger.
TREE DEBRIS FAQ
REPORT A PROBLEM WITH A CITY TREE
Prioritization of Tree Diversity and Care
Tree Debris Removal
Removing Standing Trees
How Can I Help?
Prioritization of Tree Diversity and Care
Trees provide many necessary benefits for our environment. They help prevent water and soil erosion, clean the air, cool streets, provide oxygen, combat climate change, and increase the population of pollinators and birds. In order to receive the most benefits from trees, we need to have a diverse urban forest that is better able to resist pests and diseases and has the best chance for good growth and long-term survival.
As we recover from the derecho, the City will utilize the best forestry management practices to develop a strong, resilient tree canopy. Planting many species of trees and taking care of the trees we plant will play a large role in this. We encourage you to consider planting multiple species of trees as you replace the trees lost on your property. We also look forward to working with you as we prioritize the care of the trees that remain and are replanted.
Tree Debris Removal
The City has been mapped out into zones, and crews are working their way through the entire city, zone-by-zone. It is very difficult to predict when removal will take place in specific neighborhoods, as crews encounter a variety of different situations at each street and are not able to predict how long it will take to clear each zone before moving on to the next. You can get a general idea of whether your area is being worked on by referring to the online map. This map reflects real-time location of crews instead of generic work zones, giving the public a more accurate illustration of the type of work and where the work is being performed. Crews will return to each street multiple times; however, residents can also report missed locations on the City's website.
Timeframe for Debris Removal
This is not like the typical “curbside pickup” program to which we may be accustomed. This is a major disaster recovery operation that impacts the entire city and that will take significant time to complete.
There is not a set number of passes, every neighborhood is different and has varying volumes of tree debris remaining. Some neighborhoods may require more than three passes; others may require less. Crews will continue to collect tree debris in the right-of-way until a reasonable cut-off date is determined based on remaining material. The cut-off date will be communicated to the public in advance to let residents know when the final pass will occur.
Removal of Debris from Alleys
Debris left at the edge of alleys will not be removed. We are picking up tree and storm debris curbside.
Tree Root Ball Pick Up
If you can get the tree root ball to the curb, it will be picked up with other tree debris.
The City will grind tree stumps left in the right-of-way at a later date. Crews are currently addressing hazardous limb removal and trees that pose safety risks. They will move on to assessment of trees for structural stability and stump removal after dangerous trees have been taken care of.
Tree Inspection Process - Hazardous Limb Removal
Certified arborists, working in cooperation with City staff, are performing assessments of right-of-way trees and will identify public trees that may need pruning or removal.
Following the assessment, a yellow tag will be stapled to the tree if it requires trimming and an orange tag will be stapled to the tree if it will be removed at a later date. Trees not needing major trimming or removal will not be tagged.
Trees with dangerous limbs that hang over sidewalks will be trimmed to remove the hazard. Some trees may be on private property, but if a broken or damaged limb from that tree hangs over the sidewalk or street, it will be marked for pruning to remove the hazard.
Crews will work on pruning and tree removals as the assessments in sections of the city are completed. A map showing where assessments and public tree work is pending or underway may be viewed here. All tree debris from trimming and removals will be placed along the curb to be picked up in the next debris sweep.
The City values our trees and it is our intent to save as many as possible. We examine the City's injured trees for the type and extent of damage before considering their removal. Even though a tree may have branches left, the structural integrity could be beyond repair. The safety and protection of people and property weighs heavily in the decision to save or remove. Trees creating the most hazardous conditions are considered first. For safety reasons, utility companies handle broken limbs and tree damage around power lines.
Direct questions about removals to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Report a Problem with a City Tree
If you are concerned that the right-of-way tree near your home cannot wait for the contracted arborist assessment, fill out the online form for a Forestry crew member to determine the priority of need. Attach two photos to the form, one that shows the entire tree and one that shows a closer image of the area of concern. While your tree may seem critical, please be aware that we are seeing similar types of damage throughout the city and are working on trees based on the most urgent need.
Private Tree Damage Assessment
If you are curious about the structural integrity of a tree planted on your own private property, or concerned about a neighbor’s tree that could affect your property, we recommend that you hire a certified arborist to assess the private trees. Resources are available to help you evaluate and manage storm-damaged trees:
- Iowa State Managing Storm Damaged Trees: https://store.extension.iastate.edu/product/6192
- The Iowa Department of Natural Resources https://www.iowadnr.gov/Conservation/Forestry.
- Purdue Extension Trees and Storms: https://www.extension.purdue.edu/extmedia/fnr/fnr-faq-12-w.pdf
- Forest Service Storm Injury: https://www.fs.usda.gov/naspf/sites/default/files/storm_tree_injuries.pdf
Removing Standing Trees
We have received information from residents who are concerned that we may be removing healthy trees. A certified arborist will evaluate all remaining street trees to determine their potential for survival. In some cases, a tree’s canopy may appear healthy, but the tree may not be structurally sound. While the City values every tree, especially after losing more than 20,000 street trees from the derecho, not all remaining trees may recover from the storm. There may be situations where a standing tree that appears healthy will need to be removed because it poses a danger to safety or will not survive.
Learn more about assessments on whether a tree will recover or have to be removed.
Replanting Street Trees
While we will work as aggressively as possible to replant the urban canopy, we anticipate that it will take years to complete the process. We will communicate our tree planting plan details as they become available, but if you would like to expedite the planting of a right-of-way tree you may purchase an approved tree and plant it yourself.
- Complete the tree permit.
- Select the tree you intend to purchase from the approved street tree list.
- Review the tree planting videos.
- Plant the tree in the same spot your previous right-of-way tree was located between April 1 and June 1, 2021.
- Water and take care of the tree as it grows.
Replanting Private Trees
Trees in your yard, other than the street tree, may be planted this fall or next spring. The main planting cycles are September through Thanksgiving and April 1 to June 1. A permit is not required. However, you should call Iowa One Call at 1-800-292-8989 before digging.
Review the tree planting lists to find trees that grow in our climate. Native trees are adapted to local growing conditions and ecosystems and often perform best over the long run. Most trees native to the Midwest should also perform well in Iowa. The lists also include many non-native tree species that are adapted well to this area and the stresses of urban environments. The best approach for selecting a tree to plant is to evaluate sunlight, soil volume and quality, water sources, and other physical conditions of the site.
We strongly encourage residents to choose native species that benefit pollinators or provide diversity in our tree canopy. Watch videos on how to plant a tree for the best success. Saplings that are suitable for backyard planting may be purchased through the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.
How Can I Help?
The City will establish a giving program for tree replacement as our reforestation plan is developed more fully. Watch for ways you can assist with planting city park trees and street trees.