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 have assembled 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
RELEAF CEDAR RAPIDS SITE
Prioritization of Tree Diversity and Care
Tree Debris Removal Tree and Limb Removal
Removing Standing Trees
Planting in the Right-of-Way
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.
Stumps left behind in the right-of-way following the removal of a damaged street tree will be ground down by the City and re-seeded. Preliminary work will begin by April; however, the bulk of this year’s stump grinding will occur later this summer. City Forestry crews will conduct the work in June and July, and will follow the same prioritization route that is used during snow emergencies (main arterials first, followed by collector streets, then residential neighborhoods). Crews estimate grinding down approximately 2,500 stumps this year. Due to the volume of damaged street trees, this will be a multi-year process.
Right-of-way stumps can be removed, at the resident’s expense, by following the same process as replanting by residents in the right-of-way. Complete an application for a permit. Stumps must be ground to 6-8 inches below grade. Trees planted in the same area will need to be moved 3-5 feet to one side or the other to avoid root systems from the tree that was removed. Property owners will need to grind the stump out completely to a depth of approximately 18-24 inches if they plan on re-planting in the exact same location.
A tag is stapled to the tree or a spray painted marking is left if the tree will be removed at a later date. Trees not needing major trimming or removal are not 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. 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 email@example.com.
Report a Problem with a City Tree
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. 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.
Planting tree tips
Tree planting videos
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.
- Find information about the ReLeaf Cedar Rapids project.
- Review right-of-way planting requirements and complete the tree permit.
- Select the tree you intend to purchase from the approved street tree list.
- Plant the tree 3 to 5 feet from where your previous right-of-way tree was located between April and June.
- 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 spring or fall. The main planting cycles are April 1 to June 1 and September through Thanksgiving. 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.