Tree harvesting debris clean-up to begin soon

Arnold Air Force Base, Tenn. -- Travelers will soon see workers and more heavy equipment along several base roadways. 

After an 11-month tree harvesting project that ended in late October, civil engineers and environmental managers from Arnold are preparing for clean up sooner than expected. 

Keeping safety and the environment at the forefront, base officials changed the original plan to allow the stumps and debris to decay for 2 years before removal. The stumps and logging debris that were left behind after removal of trees will be ground up using powerful machines. 

Although base officials realized and enjoyed the beauty of the pine and hardwood trees that flourished for decades along Wattendorf, the decision to trim the edge of the forests was driven by several concerns - emergency response, safety and mission topping the list.

Officials were not only concerned about the possibility of a tree or large branch falling onto the highway or striking a motorist, they were also worried about emergency responders being able to get their vehicles to areas like Arnold Village military family housing, the Wingo Inn and UTSI. Another area of concern was deer strikes.

"With all the deer strikes we have, now people have some advance warning so they can see the deer," Colonel Schantz said. "Before, you had the woods right up to the road. Now, as people drive through our installation, it [tree cutting] enables them to see the deer and hopefully reduce deer strikes." 

The new $330,000 contract, awarded to a Florida-based tree service company, calls for workers to grind up the stumps and debris to produce an environmentally friendly product - something similar to a mixture of sawdust and wood chips. The ground wood will decompose and provide stabilization and prevent erosion, according to Lt. Col. Paul Schantz, 704th Civil Engineer (CE) Squadron commander. 

"It's really good for the land, and it'll make it look a heck of a lot better than it does now," he said. "It's a terrible eye sore for the public. When they drive through, we want them to feel proud of what Arnold represents to the country and to the community." 

The clean up will also make it easier for grounds people to maintain. Colonel Schantz said CE will be able to maintain the highway right-of-way after this project is complete.
The colonel doesn't foresee any road closures during the 8-month clean up, but said if there are ever any safety concerns, some areas of the highway could be temporarily closed. 

"We're going to monitor closely as they do the work," he said. "If safety becomes an issue with cutting in certain areas - if there is any danger to the public driving - then we might have to. The areas of concern would be if there was a real steep slope close to the road. There may only be a certain way to get to it and the debris path might be focused toward the road. That's where we would look at something like that and modify it -- close the road if we have to - or just not do that area." 

Safety and environmental representatives from Aerospace Testing Alliance and the government will closely monitor the entire clean-up process. 

"My number one concern doing any activity on the road is the safety of the people driving by," he said. 

During the original tree harvesting project, contractors cut nearly 35,000 tons of pulpwood and more than 1.6 million board feet of saw timber that will be used to make paper products or for construction, according to Rick McWhite, AEDC Natural Resource Manager. Manufacturers use pulpwood to make paper products and construction workers use lumber made from saw timber for building. 

"We made the decision to remove the trees 75 feet back on both sides of the road in order to provide a clear zone," the colonel said. "We didn't just cut them down and burn them. We took the trees and put them to good use. We had a contract where the contractor actually paid the government for that lumber."