Tuesday, April 13, 1999

Forest teaches lessons anew

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Nature is teaching new lessons in the shattered Johnson and Hazelwood nature preserves in Montgomery.

        Long a lush home to fox, deer and redtail hawks, the 5-acre Johnson preserve and adjoining 65-acre Hazelwood preserve were an emerald gem.

        “Half of it's knocked down,” Patrick Kraemer, a member of the parks and recreation commission, said on Monday.

        Stripped of new leaves, dead and dying trees lie on newly bare land at the southeast corner of Cornell Road and Interstate 71, where University of Cincinnati students have studied for decades.

        If the first lesson is that death is part of life, the second already is taking shape, Mr. Kraemer said: UC has decided to pursue a “grant to study long-term regrowth” on the deforested acres.

Caution urged
        Mr. Kraemer urged caution lest cleanup jeopardize federal protected status for Hazelwood.

        But he also feared erosion and opportunistic, alien plants like honeysuckle taking advantage of delay and crowding out valued native species.

        No question the tornado damage was awe-inspiring, said fellow conservationist and neighbor Dennis Riedmiller. “Some of the trees were huge. Now they're gone.”

        He said beech, maple and oak rose more than 100 feet.

        Now, because of the storm, the annual spring walk and cleanup, set for Sunday, has been canceled.

        The Johnson-Hazelwood preserve has its origin in the decision of botany graduate students to raise $18,000 to buy Hazelwood for UC in the mid- 1920s. Retired veterinarian Frank Johnson donated 5acres to Montgomery in 1974.

        That same year, the federal government declared Hazelwood a National Natural Landmark, Mr. Kraemer said, in part to protect surviving relic plants pushed south by glaciers.

        Hazelwood was the subject of a 1929 UC doctoral dissertation by John G. Segelken and continues to attract UC scholars. The 70 species he mapped included myriad flowers and black cherry, red oak, tulip, maple, ash, beech, sour gum, sycamore and purple and black willow trees.

200 species found
        In 1984, Marjorie S. Becus restudied Hazelwood for a master's degree, finding more than 200 species of plants. She described the Johnson property as ravine and woods, while Hazelwood was farmland and woodland that was selectively cut in the 1900s and a mature forest by the time of her study.

        The UC-Montgomery cau tion and commitment to use the land to teach new generations fulfilled urban forester Steve Sandfort's hope for the outcome of the storm.

        “Nature has a wonderful way of repairing itself,” he said. “It will look pretty good in a couple years.”

        Mr. Sandfort, supervisor of urban forestry for the city of Cincinnati, saw similar tornado damage annually when he was in Atlanta.

        He predicted that young trees will sprout up where valued old trees stood once the sun warms them in the absence of a leafy high canopy.

        Mr. Sandfort urged UC and Montgomery to consider leaving some dead or damaged trees for birds and other wildlife so long as those trees don't endanger homes or people when they eventually come down.

Doing it right
        Not rushing into irrevocable decisions is the key to successful recovery from storm dam age to trees, Mr. Sandfort said, and it's just as important for homeowners as for municipalities and colleges. “Doing the job right doesn't cost you a whole lot more.”

        He said anyone with damaged trees should hire only tree contractors who present:

        • Current Ohio workers compensation coverage. “Only the best companies are going to have it because it's very expensive.”

        • Liability insurance. It will pay for damage to your property during tree work.

        • Arborist certification from the International Society of Arboriculture. “At least the crew is supervised by a certified arborist.”

        He said a certified arborist can inspect a tree for damage that might doom it next time but escape a less-qualified contractor.

        In some cases, Mr. Sandfort said, the certified arborist can “get the bad limbs out” and save the tree. Otherwise, it's best to take it down and start over in the fall when the cleanup is done and planting is best.

        Certified arborists will estimate jobs accurately, probably by the hour, ask for nothing in advance, and “send a bill when the job's done to your satisfaction,” Mr. Sandfort said.

        Any contract should specify what's to be inspected, cut and hauled away, he said, and if the tree must die, whether the stump is to be ground down.


Treasures recovered in debris
Tristate tallies financial losses
Tornado renews debate about communications system
Some see '99 as a peak year for tornadoes
Weather radios not easy to find
Hundreds of insurance claims filed
Businesses not reopening as swiftly as hoped
Long shopping list for family that lost house, clothes
Road & school closings; curfews
Two victims remembered; 2 buried today
- Forest teaches lessons anew
Government tries to get back to normal
Synagogue lends hand to church
Mail delivery interrupted
Sycamore moves some games to opponents' fields
Tax deadline extended for victims
Warren County sets up hot line