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2012 Storm Prompts Reforesting of Minn. Park

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July 24, 2013 by   - () Leave a Comment

A July 2012 storm that toppled trees at Minnesota's Itasca State Park is giving officials a chance to accelerate plans to reforest part of one of the state's most popular parks, according to an Associated Press report.

Itasca's stands of huge red and white pines, some dating back 250 years or more, are a major reason why the park exists. The park contains 25 percent of the state's old-growth pines. The blowdown severely damaged 600 state-managed acres, including 270 acres at a separate recreation area north of the park.

But park officials see it as an opportunity, resource specialist Chris Gronewold said. They've accelerated plans to reforest 500 acres in 10 years. Next year an additional 65 acres in the park will be replanted with pines as part of the 10-year plan.

"We're looking for opportunities for reforestation. If there's a pocket that I know of that has some significant blowdown on it, if it was logged 100 years ago, it's an opportunity to do restoration," Gronewold said.

If Gronewold had his way, more of the trees downed in the July 2 storm last year, which severely damaged about 275 acres within Itasca, would still be visible along Main Park Road. Dead trees provide habitat for everything from fungus to black-backed woodpeckers, according to a report from the St. Cloud Times.

"There are things in this ecosystem that are dependent on old-growth pines," Gronewold said. "You don't see that anymore. We don't have 30-inch pine logs that are fallen over and decaying."

But the expectations of 500,000 visitors a year force park managers to strike a balance.

Park Manager Bob Chance knows a big part of his job is customer service. People want to see the source of the Mississippi River. They want to see historical buildings. And, most of all, they want to see the majestic, tall pines when they drive along Lake Itasca, not downed trees that prompt questions about why the timber isn't being harvested.

"That pristine drive, we were going to maintain that," Chance said of post-storm cleanup decisions. "We did a pretty good job of hiding what happened."

The rest of the logs will rot on the remaining, less visible acres, he said.

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