Winamac Park Board Ponders Ash Tree Issue

Entrance to the Winamac Town Park
Entrance to the Winamac Town Park

Dying ash trees continue to be a challenge for the Town of Winamac. More than 50 ash trees have been removed in recent weeks from the Town Park, but Park Manager Dave DeLorenzo says there’s still more work that needs to be done.“We have the one by the softball diamond yet,” he says. “We have one more on the far back side, right on the river’s edge. I missed it; it’s hard to tell an ash tree from an oak tree when they haven’t leafed out. But we do have, I’m guessing, somewhere [around] 30 or so more ash trees, mainly in the fairground area, mainly on the riverbank.”

Last week, the Winamac Park Board discussed ways to remove those trees safely and inexpensively. Board members revisited the idea of having a contractor drop the trees and then allowing the public to cut them up and remove the wood in exchange for a fee, a method used at the Tippecanoe River State Park.

Town Attorney Justin Schramm had previously advised the town council against such an arrangement, due to potential liability issues. He told the park board that while they certainly have the option to use that sort of plan, there is no way to completely eliminate the town’s responsibility if someone were to be injured.

DeLorenzo added that the arrangement may not actually lower costs, anyway, “When you hire someone to cut down a tree and then remove [it], once that tree is cut, that tree belongs to them, and they can sell it to a logger, they can sell it wherever they want.”

Further complicating matters is the fact that some of the dead trees are memorial trees that individuals had donated. Park board members requested that efforts be taken to keep track of the memorials and replace those trees with new ones.

Board president Courtney Poor said tree removal and replacement will have to be considered in greater detail, as the newly-appointed park board goes about creating a budget, “It would be good to see a little breakdown of the expenditure that we have for taking care of this, for budgetary purposes for now, and obviously we’re going to have a new budget. So, if we have to wait, then at least we would know that is going to have to be a line item for our budget, at least for the next year or two.”

In other business, it was discussed that a few individuals have expressed interest in donating benches for the Winamac Parkway and Veteran’s Memorial Park. The park board decided to seek the input of the American Legion and VFW, when it comes to the addition of benches at Veteran’s Memorial Park.