‘Sky’s the limit’

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. — An open house held at the Charlottetown Public Library on Nov. 16 offered insight into how the public can salvage downed wood on their property from post-tropical storm Fiona.

“Really what we’re trying to do is create a space for people to come together and talk about the trees that have been lost and how they feel about trees,” Katrina Cristall, climate action officer with the city told SaltWire Network at the event.

The event, hosted by the city of Charlottetown, offered several booths to educate and get feedback from the public on the Residential Property Clean-up Program, and how the wood can be used for artistic or practical purposes.

About 5,000 city-owned trees came down during Fiona, many being large old-growth elm and oak trees.

With the high abundance of valuable and increasingly rare wood now available, the city is looking at several different options on how to use it, including public infrastructure and art fixtures.

Simon Wilmot, program co-ordinator for environment and sustainability in Charlottetown, was also at the event and said part of the objective was to educate people about the Residential Tree Cleanup Program because it is an unusual program.

“We don’t normally go onto people’s private lands and help them with trees,” said Wilmot.

“This is something that we’re doing now and is available for a limited time and people can still sign up for that.”

The program is a partnership between the city and the provincial Department of Fisheries and Communities to assist the public in pruning and clean-up of tree damage and debris caused by Fiona.

It covers uninsurable losses and damage to residential properties. This includes trees fallen in yards, damaged trees at risk of falling, and basic debris clean-up on private property in the city.

It doesn’t cover fallen trees or debris on homes or vehicles, as these are considered insurable losses. Homeowners and business owners are responsible for contacting insurance companies, and the program doesn't cover the removal of tree stumps.

It also does not cover damage to businesses and not-for-profit organizations, as well as aesthetic work on private properties, such as pruning and landscape work.

“We’re really talking about what are the opportunities and how people can deal with the damage from downed trees. We have large amounts of high-quality wood that aren’t normally available, some of that wood can be put to uses,” said Wilmot.

Brodye Chappell, a woodworker and sawyer in Charlottetown, told SaltWire at the event he is excited the city has taken on this initiative.

“A lot of people think ‘just take it to the dump and it becomes mulch,’ but there is so much potential for it from heirloom furniture to art,” said Chappell.

“Sky is the limit what you can do with this stuff,” he said.

Over the years, Charlottetown has lost dozens of its old-growth elm trees to Dutch Elm disease. As a result, it has been a harder wood to acquire in the province.

Chappell has been involved in the clean-up effort, helping the city mulch and dry the wood collected around town from the Fiona.

“It would just break my heart if they got rid of this stuff so I’m kind of glad they took initiative and really wanted to do something as far as salvaging everything,” said Chappell.

He said he looks forward to seeing how the elm and oak wood will be used once it’s been properly dried and sorted.

“I’m curious to see what to see the city wants to do on their side, as far as what they need and what the community needs,” he said. “I’m just really stoked either way.”

Residents can report storm-related damaged trees online using the online form on the city website or by phone at 902-629-2594 during regular business hours.

Rafe Wright, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Guardian