Reforesting Merrill - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Reforesting Merrill


By Bonnie Shelton

MERRILL (WAOW)--The devastating tornado that ripped through Merrill not only destroyed homes, but also forests. Private residences lost many trees, and efforts are already underway to clean up damaged areas of Council Grounds State Park.

Forest rangers say the damage to the park is substantial. 

The sounds of the tornados aftermath ring loud and clear, even days after the twister blew through Merrill.

Homeowners are still busy clearing their property of damage including trees uprooted from the ground. Council Grounds State Park also suffered due to the storm.

"I was shocked I had to walk in actually to see the damage and I was...I didn't think that much damage had happened," said Forest Ranger Sara Benzing.

Forest Rangers are busy clearing roadways, but until they are completely clear, the park is closed to visitors.

Forest Ranger Rich LaValley said not everything will be removed. "There are certainly parts of the park that are not going to see salvage operations in it."

Some sacred burial sights will be left as. Looking around some areas of the park, some spots lay untouched, while others are covered in splintered limbs and stumps, trunks broken off like toothpicks in the midst of ferocious winds.

"We're going to be looking at trees that pose a risk to the public...we're going to end up going through and felling some of those 'hazard trees' we call them," said LaValley.

LaValley has seen damage like this before after twisters hit Siren and Ladysmith, each time lending a hand to cut timber and clear roads.

He says the DNR is advising private landowners how to deal with splintered property. They are targeting hard-hit areas and will soon canvass with more detailed instructions on removal.

As damage assessment continues, Park Ranger Sara Benzing says the campgrounds sit untouched ready to open in May, but that's not the case for other areas.

"There will be trails that are closed for quite a long time," she said.

Forest rangers are thankful some structures were spared, but the loss of timber is a reminder of mother nature's unpredictable force.

Online Reporter: Bonnie Shelton

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