ELWOOD – Arborists and helpers cut down dead trees, fertilized living ones and pruned others that needed it Wednesday at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery.
It was the second Saluting Branches event, a day of volunteering for arborists across the U.S. An estimated 1,400 volunteers helped out at 36 veterans cemeteries.
“It’s my ability with my skill to give back in a beautiful area that should be as beautiful as possible,” said Brandon Dobnick, a tree-climber for the Morton Arboretum and who was among 14 volunteers at the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood.
The help is needed not just for aesthetic value, but also for safety’s sake because of the hazard that falling branches could pose, Jason Grizzle said. Grizzle is a gardener for the cemetery.
Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery has been dealing with growing numbers of dead ash trees that have been infested by the emerald ash borer beetle. The pest has infested the tree species across the country.
“It saves a lot of money budget-wise for the government,” Grizzle said of the volunteer effort within the cemeteries.
Dobnick and others were cutting down dead trees in a new section of the Memorial Walkway, where a tree service earlier this year was hired to cut down about 30 trees.
“That was a lot of money,” Grizzle said. “We had to block off this walkway because all the ash trees were disintegrating and falling apart.”
Jim Teiber, arborist for the city of Joliet, has been the site leader organizing the work at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery for the past two years. Teiber said companies contribute time, employees and equipment for an important cause.
“We’re at a cemetery for people who gave everything so these people could stand here today,” he said.
That message was not lost on the volunteers.
“I was actually thoroughly impressed,” Dobnick said of his first look at the cemetery as he drove in. “It’s a breathtaking moment when you come over a hill and see the headstones that are out there.”
“It’s big,” Todd Kramer with Kramer Tree Experts of West Chicago said of the 982-acre cemetery. “A lot of work.”
Kramer’s crew had its work cut out for it in removing 40 dead ash trees. They brought a grapple loader, a machine capable of picking up trees and moving them into an 18-inch chipper. They also had a 60-yard chip truck.
Other companies at the cemetery included Stumps Arbor Care and The Davey Tree Expert Co. Nestle USA provided water and snacks for the workers and volunteers.
Jared Sanders with Davey, an Ohio-based company with operations across North America, including an office in Mokena, brought some of the company’s patented liquid fertilizer for the maple trees growing around the main flagpole at the cemetery.
“You can see that some of them are coloring. They’re a little yellow,” Sanders said of the trees’ leaves. “Usually, it’s a nutrient deficiency. ... Our fertilizer will restore some of those nutrients.”
Don Roppolo, also with Davey and president of the Illinois Arborists Association, lives in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin, and was making a return visit to the Elwood cemetery after having volunteered for Saluting Branches last year.
“It is moving to see the headstones and think about what they all did for our country,” Roppolo said. “I’m giving a portion of a day. It doesn’t seem like much in return.”
Visit this article at TheHerald-New.com to view video of arborists at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery.