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Mulch, even some firewood, piling up

There shouldn't be any shortage of wood mulch in the wake of this month's ice storm.

Several Central Kentucky communities are grinding the tree limbs into mulch to give away or to use in some environmentally friendly way.

Limbs picked up in Nicholasville and Jessamine County will be used for mulch and a walking trail. The debris is taken to a site on Virginia Drive near the Donaldson plant in Nicholasville, where it will stay for a couple of months before it is mulched.

Some of it will be given away to those who want mulch, said Frank Hubbard, director of emergency management for Nicholasville. Other mulch will be used on a walking trail at Riney B Park off the U.S. 27 Bypass, said Duane McCuddy, director of Nicholasville-Jessamine County Parks & Recreation.

In Mercer County, limbs are taken to a recycling center on Moberly Road near the new Mercer County High School.

"We have a giant grinder there and make mulch with it," said Judge-Executive John Trisler. "We make it available (free) to people here locally, and the company we contracted with will take the balance.

"We usually keep mulch there year-round, but there are mounds of it out there," Trisler said Monday. "They're grinding today. The grinder keeps working its way up the line and eating all that debris up and spitting out mulch. It's something to behold."

In Versailles, the limbs are taken to a recycling center where they are ground by a private contractor from Nicholasville. "Then they'll come pick it up and take it to Nicholasville and grind it again and use it as mulch," said Mayor Fred Siegelman.

In Winchester, limbs are converted to mulch by Winchester Municipal Utilities. "We have a compost area out at the wastewater treatment plant and that's where we take all these limbs," said Winchester City Manager Ken Kerns.

Limbs from Danville and Boyle County are taken to a spot near a quarry on Gose Pike and the U.S. 127 Bypass. The limbs there are either incinerated by a brush burner or put into a "tub grinder" for mulch, "but it doesn't produce a mulch that would be satisfactory for people to use in their garden," said Boyle Judge-Executive Harold McKinney.

The brush burner "produces almost no smoke and no ash," McKinney said. "It's not like it's just piled out here and burned. We dig a pit of significant proportions and you put the wood down in the pit, and you blow air down in there like a blacksmith's bellows. It fires that fire, and it's incredible how fast it burns stuff up."

"The last word I had was that we had 3,200 truckloads of debris go through there," McKinney said. The loads ranged from pickup trucks, pulled trailers and even trucks with grapple arms.

Garrard County and the city of Lancaster have not yet decided what will happen with all the limbs being collected on a Lancaster lot where the stockyards once stood.

Heavy equipment is pressing and crushing the limbs at the moment, said Garrard Judge-Executive John Wilson.

Even charities are making use of some wood. Anderson County Judge-Executive Steve Cornish knows of at least one church that has taken some wood to give to people who heat their homes with it.

"They have some people they know that heat with wood but they're getting elderly and can't cut wood," Cornish said.

It is legal to burn limbs felled by storms. However, fire season begins Sunday, reminded Trey Heineman, spokesman for the state Department for Natural Resources.

That means limbs may only be burned between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. and only when the wind is at a minimum. Fires must also be at least 150 feet from any woodland or brushland. Those restrictions will be in effect through April 30, and also between Oct. 1 and Dec. 15.