Parks and Recreation

Contact Information
Parks & Recreation Department
City Services Center (CSC)
500 15th Avenue SW
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52404
Phone: 319-286-5566
Fax: 319-540-8843
forestry@cedar-rapids.org

Hours

Mon - Fri, 7:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.

Department Contacts

Forestry

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

TREE FINDER

Prioritization of Tree Diversity and Care
Tree Debris Removal 
Tree Assessment
Removing Standing Trees
Replanting
How Can I Help?

Prioritization of Tree Diversity and Care
Watering New TreeTrees 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 is updated daily. Every street will be reached at least two times for tree debris removal.

Tree Debris RemovalTimeframe for Debris Removal
This is not like the typical “curbside pickup” program we may be accustomed to. This is a major disaster recovery operation which has impacted the entire city and which will take significant time to complete. We estimate at this point that it may take up to a month before crews can get to every street for a first pass. We will then work on coming back to every neighborhood again. If crews aren’t able take something during the first pass, it will be picked up in future passes.

Removal of Debris from Alleys
We will clear a path into alleys to ensure our Solid Waste and Recycling vehicles can access collection bins, but we will not be hauling debris left at the edge of alleys. 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.

Tree Stumps
The City will grind tree stumps left in the right-of-way. Crews are currently addressing urgent branch and tree removals that pose safety hazards. They will move on to assessment of trees for structural stability and stump removal after dangerous trees have been taken care of. We do not anticipate that tree stumps will be removed in time for fall tree planting. We are working to have stumps removed so trees can be replanted in the spring.

Tree Assessment
Private Tree DamageStreet Tree Damage Assessment
Contracted certified arborists have begun to assess and mark public right-of-way trees for necessary trimming and removal based on damage as a result of the derecho. The work is being performed under a contract with Jamey Flannery Trucking, LLC, with monitoring firm DebrisTech documenting the work. Arborists are working with City staff to set guidelines for pruning and removal and to update the condition of each tree on the City’s tree inventory. Assessments are anticipated to take one month.

A yellow tag will be stapled to the tree if it requires trimming, an orange tag indicates the tree will be removed. Trees not needed major trimming or removal will not be tagged. The tags help insure the correct work is done to each tree and that the City of Cedar Rapids will be eligible for FEMA assistance. Residents are asked to not remove the tags. Arborists will also mark the trees with paint. Timelines for tree pruning and removal per area will vary depending on the damage. The contractor will be placing no parking signs in the areas where they need access to work.

Crews will cut down trees that meet FEMA guidelines for removal. In some cases, the tree may appear healthy but have structural damage that affects its ability to survive long-term. The safety and protection of people and property weighs heavily in the decision to remove the tree. 

For trees being removed, the contractor will cut the stump as low to the ground as they can.  The stump will be removed at a later date. Tree debris will be placed curbside to be picked up during the next debris sweep of each street. Questions about the process should be directed to constructioneng@cedar-rapids.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:

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.

Replanting 

Tree PlantingReplanting 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.

 

 

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