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Colorado Springs forestry crews finish bulk of 2019 damaged tree cleanup on schedule

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- With nearly 2,000 people asking for 3,000 damaged trees to be removed from their property after last year's late spring snowstorm, it seemed an overwhelming job for a 7-member crew in Colorado Springs.

But on Monday, crew supervisor Dennis Will announced that the crew successfully met its goal of responding to those service requests by the end of 2019 -- after seven months of steady work.

"We cleared it two weeks ago," he said. "We just wish we had the manpower to respond sooner. There's probably 500 requests from people who got tired of waiting for a response. And our response doesn't count some of the 50,000 park trees that have damage."

The forestry crew responded to reports of damaged trees along sidewalks or under city responsibility that threatened private property owners.

"What really helped us is we got three new employees and $1 million in new equipment approved before the storm," Will said. "The storm response cost around $233,000, with several departments contributing to the effort."

Workers piled the tree debris at the department's operations center and used a chipping machine to turn the debris into mulch that is offered to citizens for free.

The city's estimated tree count of 225,000 has taken a beating in recent years with the May snowstorm, the March bomb cyclone and a 100 mph windstorm in January 2017.

"Many of the trees that endured those weather events are probably the strongest and healthiest trees we have," Will said. "But we've learned those weather events aren't abnormal. They're normal for this area. So we have to be prepared to respond."

Will also said that this year, the city will resurrect a program from 2005-2007 that will salvage damaged trees and turn them into tables and other products that the city can use or sell.

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Scott Harrison

Scott is a reporter for KRDO. Learn more about Scott here.