Web posted Tuesday, October 22, 2002

Beetle-Killed Trees Have a new Future

By John Perkovich

It all began with a conversation at the Star of the North Lutheran Church in Kenai a couple years ago. A conversation that would eventually bring together a retired Alaska School principal and three experienced loggers with over 100 years experience from Augusta Wisconsin to work on a common problem here in Alaska, beetle killed trees! The retired principal is Kenai resident Dick Hultberg.

Dick mentioned to me after church one day that he needed to cut some beetle killed trees at his home in Kenai. I told Dick I would come look at the trees and see if I could cut them for him. Dick responded with wide eyes " You know how to cut trees? These are big trees and one is over the roof of my house!" I said I would come by and look at them and Dick suggested we go right then to go look at his trees.

I rode to Dick's house with him and looked at the trees in his yard and agreed to come cut them for him. The trees were cut and the logs were sawed into lumber that was used to build the huge barn on Billy Spires place off Wik Road in Nikiski. Some of these trees were the tallest in Kenai and we were able to drop all of them safely. Well almost all of them; ask Dick about who pulled the one on his apple tree!

Shortly after cutting the trees for Dick, I was asked if I could help cut the trees at Dick's daughter's place Lisa and Chell Atchley that was also located in Kenai. I drove over to the place and looked at the job and realized this was a big job and had to be carefully planned out before started to be able to safely drop these trees without hitting a house. Some of these trees were 60 feet tall and within ten feet of a house. To make matters worse there were at least 18 trees that needed to come down. These trees were positioned close enough to other trees and existing structures that required them to be dropped in such a manner to prevent them from hanging up in other trees or damaging fences, small buildings, and other homes.

Jim Von Haden, Jim Ries, and I met Dick at his daughters place in Kenai off Gill Street and began cutting the trees one sunny Saturday morning this fall. We used a four-inch strap to steer the trees as Jim Ries did the cutting. Dick, Jim and I manned the strap, in other words provided a little persuasion in steering the trees to the ground. You know the routine; tug and dash to prevent being squashed like a bug. The key to making your escape run is to choose your route before the tree is on its way down. That way you can look for potential trip hazards like ladders or other obstacles between you and safety. Jim Von Haden was our only worker who used the tripover-the-ladder-drop-and-roll-method to get out from under a falling tree. We never laughed (too much!) because after all it was Grandpa Jim that climbed the ladder and fastened our pulling strap each time.

Once the trees were on the ground Jim Von Haden joined in helping limb the trees. Dick and I loaded brush on my 18-ft trailer and hauled it away. We hauled 11 1/2 loads of brush away in the two days it took us to finish the job. Chell and Lisa provided the crew with snacks, water and ice chest full of pop. They even fed us each day at SkiMoes in Kenai We left one tree that looked plenty green yet only to hear that a wind storm took that one down too. Luckily it never caused any damage.

The loading of the logs required the help of two additional crew members Brad Perkovich and Steve Dambacher who were mainly recruited for their muscle to help load the four 18 ft logs. Tell Steve he could have had his name listed first if be had not over slept that morning! The logs were loaded on my trailer and hauled to Dave Dumpster's woodworking on Bridge Access Road between K-Beach and Kenai. You know the place where they make all these neat little buildings on Bridge Access. Quality work at a very reasonable price and what was once a standing dead ugly tree's was transformed into nice sawed lumber.

After a little over two days of work we had the ink completed and the mess cleaned up. One of those jobs where you're proud to have been part of and one that benefited several people in the community. The wood that would not make saw logs was handed to Brad Perkovich's for firewood this winter. Tim Von Haden selected a few pieces to use on his wood working projects. Some of the lumber will be used to build Kim Perkovich a ncw horse barn this coming spring.

Making use of our many beetle killed trees is important and a very worthwhile practice while the wood is still usable. Besides, if I had not gotten involved in this wood cutting project I'm sure a few more fish would have died.

So there you have it the fish are still alive and I have a lot of lumber!