Root Rot Prompts Washington Campground Closure

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June 9, 2011 by   - () Leave a Comment

The Washington state Parks and Recreation Commission has closed the Kopachuck Park campground while it considers what to do about trees that are infected with laminated root rot, The News Tribune, Tacoma, reported.

The problem can jeopardize trees’ stability and cause them to fall.

The closure came after the park’s arbor crew noticed a gradual but growing pattern of dying trees in the campground, Robert Fimbee, chief of resources stewardship for the parks, wrote in a report.

The crew found 80% of the Douglas firs affected.

The arbor crew turned its attention to Kopachuck and other parks after trees fell last summer at Lake Wenatchee.

“The arbor crew services the whole agency,” Kopachuck Park Manager Tom Pew said. “At Lake Wenatchee, they had two trees fail during a busy camping season. Last winter, they had a logging operation and removed a lot of the trees.”

Pew said root rot is a fungus that attacks the roots of many conifers, especially Douglas firs.

“The roots will start to compartmentalize and get shorter,” he said. “Then the root structure becomes broken, and it compromises the structure of the tree.”

Pew pointed to a tree that had the disease. When the tree was cut down, one-third of its trunk looked like sawdust. The fungus spreads through trees’ underground root system. When a tree falls in the wild, it takes the pathogens out and breaks the cycle of rot, Pew said. But in an area regularly frequented by people, park officials must put safety first and can’t wait for nature to take its course, he said.

“These trees are about 195 feet tall,” Pew said. “When one falls, we don’t know how many campsites, how many RVs, it will hit.”

Pew said the campground is the only part of the park that’s closed because the lower part has few Douglas firs.

The public has been disappointed with the campground’s closure, since local organizations have fought to save the park from state budget cuts, said Linda Gough, chair of Preserve Our Parks.

Gough said her organization has provided volunteers to help remove the trees.”

The parks commission invites the public to tour the park with Preserve Our Parks at 3 p.m. Friday. Washington State Parks will sponsor a public meeting from 6-7 p.m. June 22 at Kopachuck Middle School in Gig Harbor.

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