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Feds may assess tree damage

OWENSBORO — State officials have asked the U.S. Forestry Service to send an urban forestry strike team to help determine how much damage an ice storm caused to trees in city parks in Western Kentucky.

The Messenger-Inquirer reports that such an assessment would help Owensboro and other cities in Western Kentucky qualify for reimbursement for tree serv ices from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The devastating ice storm that hit the state Jan. 27 was blamed for 36 deaths and more than 700,000 power outages at its peak, mostly in Western Kentucky.

Sarah Gracey, urban forestry coordinator for the Division of Forestry, said parks south of Owensboro suffered the worst tree damage, citing those in Madisonville, Paducah and Mayfield.

"The bottom line is we would like to help the cities get reimbursed for proper tree care and not (lose) out anymore," Gracey said.

The worst-hit parks in Owensboro included Legion, Moreland and Chautauqua, said Eddie Atherton, horticulturist for the city.

"People were used to seeing those big old trees, and the complexion of those parks has changed," he said.

Newer parks lost some trees that were uprooted by the weight of the ice, but parks with the largest trees suffered the most damage, he said.

The Daviess County parks department director, Ross Leigh, said falling limbs have closed some trails and damaged others.

"Obviously, our biggest concern is just to get (things) open — the trails and the disc golf course" and other park areas closed by debris, Leigh said.

The nature center at Yellow Creek Park lost some large, "beautiful" trees that can't be replaced anytime soon, he said.

"Those trees are not the kind you can go and plant today and expect to be that big today or next year or in 50 years," Leigh said.