WATERLOO — The city is turning to private buyers to help reduce its stockpile of ash tree logs.
Members of the Waterloo City Council’s finance committee have authorized the Leisure Services Commission to sell logs from 300 ash trees cut down last summer and use the proceeds to buy more trees.
City forestry crews have been removing ash trees from public parks and roadside right-of-way since the invasive emerald ash borer was discovered near Gates Park in 2014.
The insect is expected to destroy the city’s ash forest, so city crews and some private contractors are removing infested and healthy trees proactively to prevent what could be a public safety crisis if all the trees were to die at the same time.
The city initially piled the ash logs at a site on Falls Avenue east of Black Hawk Creek and allowed residents to use it for firewood.
City Forester Todd Derifield said that wood is still available, but more valuable logs have been set aside in a fenced area apart from the public stack so potential bidders can inspect them.
It was a move borne out of necessity as well as a chance to raise some money for new trees.
“We originally thought there was a great demand to provide our citizens with the firewood, and there still is,” Derifield said. “But we’ve just got so much volume of wood that it’s not disappearing as fast as we thought.”
The city last winter made about $7,750 selling 160 logs from ash trees removed from the Irv Warren Memorial golf course.
“Normally the logs from a rural forested area are more valuable than an urban tree log,” said Derifield, noting city trees can have nails and other embedded metal.
Waterloo is only accepting a lump sum bid for the entire cache of ash logs, not selling them individually.
“There are some craftsmen that are interestd and there’s also interest from saw mills,” Derifield said. “They use them for anything from pallet wood to furniture. I think some guys are even using them for table tops.”
Through August the city had removed nearly 2,500 ash trees from street rights-of-way, parks and golf courses.
Another 2,146 ash trees remain on public property, most awaiting removal.
Adjacent property owners, at their own expense, are treating about 113 ash trees on city property with insecticide to save them, while the city is treating another 36 notable ash trees in parks and golf courses.