Austin requests grants to replace trees lost during tornado

Published 9:13 am Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Austin officials are hoping $100,000 in grants from the Hormel Foundation helps replace trees lost in the June 17 tornado.

The city is requesting a $75,000 grant and a $25,000 grant for tree removal and replacement as part of 13 total grant requests to the foundation.

Those 13 grants amount to $347,513, and the city is requesting another $45,000 in funding for Austin-Mower County Area Transit programs. Last year, the foundation awarded $317,400 in grants.

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Under the $75,000 grant proposal, city officials are requesting help with replacing trees and starting a tree inventory program.

The money would go toward trees at Todd Park and the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center.

According to the grant application, 50 percent of the trees at Todd Park were lost in the storm. At the nature center, 300 more were destroyed.

In a letter to the foundation, parks and recreation director Kim Underwood said she is looking for “avenues that will in time beautify our community.”

“We can be grateful that this tornado spared human tragedy,” she said in the letter. “Trees can be replaced but it’s gaining back their value that will take many years.”

In addition to replacing those lost trees, officials want to start a GPS tree inventory system, which can be beneficial when tracking tree diseases and infestations, according to the grant application.

Underwood said replacing trees and creating an inventory would “ensure that our children’s children will enjoy the park as we knew it.”

The other $25,000 grant would provide funds for removing a large number of trees downed in Dobbins Creek and the Cedar River.

Underwood added that the city is already raising awareness of the lost trees, through events like the recent police and fire softball game, which raised money for tree replacement. 

In 1999, Underwood noted, the city received $75,000 from the foundation to help replace trees lost during a July 1998 straight-line wind storm.

The foundation is expected to decide on all the grant requests for next year in December.