Tree group gets help for the cause
Upcounty nonprofit seeks to turn felled trees into new life
One of the founders of a fledgling group hoping to give felled trees a legacy beyond the mulch pile is likely smiling down from above the canopy, his partner said.
“Wherever Troyt is, he’s smiling,“ Chris Holmgren said of Troyt York of Montgomery Village, who died in May at 72. “He planted the seed and unfortunately he wasn’t here to see it come up. It’s a source of pride for me.“
Holmgren and York founded the nonprofit Community Woodlands Alliance in July 2006 to recycle into firewood and lumber trees from around the region that are cut down or felled by disease or weather. They pay for the trees in the hope that the organizations that receive the money will use it plant new trees.
The men, hunting buddies, weren’t sure how their venture would fare. But things are looking pretty good these days.
In May, shortly after York’s death from a heart attack, Holmgren, 48, learned that the alliance — based at Holmgren’s Seneca Creek Joinery on Peach Tree Road in Dickerson — had been awarded a $250,000 grant from the federal government.
The grant was awarded through the Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service Wood Education and Resource Center in Morgantown, W.Va. The alliance applied for the grant through the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.
“I think most people would be surprised to learn that when trees come down during storms, that these trees are not being used in the best possible way,“ said Brian LeCouteur, a senior environmental planner and urban forester with the Council of Governments. At best the wood is used for compost or mulch, he said.
“The wood could be used for all kinds of useful products — woodworking projects at schools, chairs, tables,“ LeCouteur said.
The grant will be used to buy a bigger sawmill for the joinery.
“That will double or triple capacity, probably more than that,“ Holmgren said. The current mill can process up to 800 board feet — a measure that converts timber to lumber — a day, he said. He plans to buy one that can process at least 2,500 board feet a day.
The money will also be used for research on a hybrid solar⁄electric drying kiln for lumber, and a project that would turn wood slabs into charcoal, he said.
The alliance has attracted the participation of several area governments. The cities of Rockville and Greenbelt started bringing their waste trees to the Dickerson operation last year.
Now, Montgomery County’s Department of Park and Planning and the City of Takoma Park are also sending their felled trees, as are several private tree removal services.
“We’ve got a lot of logs out here. I’ve probably got 30,000 board feet of logs,“ Holmgren said.
One reason the nonprofit has attracted so much interest is its method of business: Once a shipment is dropped at Peach Tree Road, Holmgren assesses its fair market value and writes a check.
“I think the real selling point for this project is a lot of these municipalities have been paying money to dispose of these products and now they’ll be getting money,“ LeCouteur said. “Hopefully the individual municipalities will use the money they save for tree-planting projects.“
Other partnerships are on the horizon, including reaching out to municipalities in Northern Virginia.
The alliance has arranged an information exchange with Appalachian State University in West Virginia. And Holmgren is discussing a possible alliance internship program with Allegany College in Cumberland.
“CWA is sort of my baby now, and Troyt’s legacy as I see it,“ Holmgren said. “This was the last big project that he was working on, and I’m trying my best to see that [the project] happens.“
TO LEARN MORE
For more information call Chris Holmgren at 301-972-7453.