DC: DDOT Launches Urban Wood Utilization Program

Story by Kasey Yturralde, DDOT Urban Forestry Division; all photos courtesy of DDOT

Urban Forestry Division Arborist Shaun McKim (left) operating the mill with Arborist Sam Doan (right) and UFD Associate Director Earl Eutsler (middle)

Good things are coming out of Washington DC, all made from trees. The District’s Urban Forestry Division has opened up a new milling operation, recycling District-owned trees for use as benches and stools in public school gardens and outdoor classrooms. This program reduces wood waste in the District by recycling failing or injured trees scheduled for removal. Street trees enjoy a second act as a bench or stool while also teaching students about tree biology and decomposition.

UFD Arborists Master the Sawmill

Urban Forestry Divisions’ (UFD) first challenge in operating the sawmill was finding a place to put it. A milling operation requires room not only for the equipment, but also for moving and storing large trees and logs. Fortunately through an existing partnership with Casey Trees, UFD was offered space for both the mill and storing logs and lumber. The mill, now housed at the Casey Trees Farm, is capable of milling 100 inch circumference trees. UFD Arborists, Shaun McKim and Sam Doan, operate the mill about twice a month to produce a variety of benches, stump seating, and of course wood chips.

To date, they have milled lumber from red oak, ginkgo, bald cypress, tulip poplar, elm, maple, and ash trees.

Delivering Urban Wood to School Gardens

Outdoor classroom at Langley Elementary School in Ward 5. Benches made from recycled wood.

From the start, UFD was interested in returning urban lumber for use in the District, ideally with a role in environmental education. They found the perfect partnership with the OSSESchool Garden Program, headed by Sam Ullery, Garden School Specialist. Together Sam Ullery and UFD Associate Director Earl Eutsler developed a pilot program to connect urban lumber with schools in need of seating for outdoor classrooms and gardens.

Sam Ullery shared UFD’s new Urban Wood Reuse website with a handful of schools and garden coordinators interested in the new program. Since late 2018, four schools have received recycled wood benches and stump seating. Demand is growing, and nine additional schools have found their way to the website and submitted requests.

UFD goes DIY at 2019 Arbor Day Festival

In Spring of 2019, District urban wood made its premier as part of the school curriculum at IDEA Public Charter School. Urban Forestry Division found valuable partners in Dennis Chestnut and Ian Milne, teachers in IDEA’s Academy of Construction and Design (ACAD), who were interested in

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Mr. Chestnut surveys the work of ACAD students in the design of birdhouse kits for Arbor Day.

partnering with UFD in building birdhouse kits for use at the Inaugural 2019 Arbor Day Festival. UFD Arborists Sam Doan and Shaun McKim delivered 75 boards milled from ginkgo and tulip poplar to Ian Milne. Mr. Chestnut then led his ACAD carpentry students in designing and manufacturing 60 birdhouse kits. The birdhouses were designed to attract native birds such as chickadees and house wrens, thanks to expert advice from DOEE Wildlife Biologist Dan Rauch. The birdhouses were wildly popular at the Arbor Day Festival where Shaun and Sam guided families in this fun and very hands-on activity.

In the past year Urban Forestry Division’s new urban wood utilization program has delivered benches, stools, birdhouses, and lumber for use by District teachers, students and families alike. UFD arborists are working toward meeting the remaining school requests and also branching out to new ventures, such as turning baseball bats from a local ash tree thanks to a partnership with Phelps Architecture, Construction, and Engineering High School.