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Arboretum tree damage will take months to tally

By Jessica Lovell
Guelph Tribune

For a local facility that’s all about trees, it’s difficult to put a price on the damage caused by the ice storm that hit the area just days before Christmas.

The manager of the Arboretum at the University of Guelph, Ric Jordan, estimates it will take months before the damage to the property’s trees can even be fully assessed.

“In our collections, there are at least 1,000 trees that have sustained some damage in one form or another,” Jordan said in an interview Monday.

“It was a pretty bad storm.”

The facility, located on the east side of the university campus, includes both naturally forested areas and cultivated collections of plants and trees.

Among them are trees and shrubs that have been grown from seeds collected from all over the northern hemisphere.

That makes estimating the cost of the damage tough, said Jordan.

“How do you put a cost value on something 30 years old that we’ve grown from seed?” he said.

He said he can’t put a real figure on the cost of cleaning up and repairing damage, but said a conservative estimate might be around $10,000 to $12,000.

“In our budget, that is a fair amount,” he said.

It also fails to account for the decades it took to grow the trees, many of which are not available at local nurseries, he said.

Of course, the estimated 1,000 trees damaged have not all been destroyed. The extent of the damage ranges from downed or broken limbs to fallen trees.

“Within the collections, probably only a dozen or so total trees came down,” Jordan said.

The evergreens, with the added weight of snow on their branches, were the ones he was most concerned about, but they actually fared better than expected. It seems to be the leafless deciduous trees that suffered the most, he said.

But assessing the impact of the storm on the Arboretum’s woodlots has been difficult, as the winter weather hampers access.

Arboretum staff will likely be working on the cleanup through the spring and into summer, he said.

In a way, an event like the ice storm is sort of nature’s way of pruning trees, said Jordan, admitting it’s not uncommon to have a little additional tree maintenance following the winter.

But this storm was particularly hard on the trees, he said.

“When you’re losing major structural limbs, that’s not an every-year occurrence,” Jordan said.

“As far as widespread damage in the Arboretum, this is the worst I’ve seen.”

The saving grace may be that the trees in the Arboretum get regular attention that many other trees don’t.

“The damage we suffered is less than other areas, because of the maintenance we’ve given the trees over the years,” said Jordan.

The warm weather that came roughly a week after the storm also helped a bit, but it may have been too little, too late for some trees.

And only time will tell, said Jordan.

“In some cases, there are trees that are bent into a horseshoe shape,” he said.

“The longer they stay like that, the less chance there is that they’re going to come back up.”

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