MADRID, Iowa — For decades, the Iowa Arboretum has shown nature’s beauty.
“When you are here, you hear nature,” said Mark Schneider, executive director of the Iowa Arboretum.
After August’s derecho, it’s also showing nature’s nasty side. “It was total destruction as far as trees falling down. Trees had snapped over,” said Schneider.
Winds reaching 130 mph in Madrid snapped mature trees like twigs and left the arboretum’s staff and volunteers to pick up the pieces. “There were about 133 trees that were destroyed and about another 80 damaged and may need additional work,” Schneider said.
Kevin Lantz began working for the arboretum as an intern in 1983 and is now the horticulturist. For him, these trees are personal. “I think I’ve touched probably all of them at some point in time,” Lantz said.
Those same hands that helped bring trees to life now have to bring them down. Lantz said, “They are my kids basically. I basically went home and cried. It was over the shock of that first night.”
The derecho shut down the arboretum for six weeks, but it will be months before the four nearby trails across the street are safe enough for the public. Schneider said, “The trees in that section did not just fall over but they twisted. Many are laying on top of each other like a domino effect.”
Until the derecho, a green ash tree on site weathered storms since 1979, but it became uprooted and broken on Aug. 10. Between massive tree loss and structure damage to the gazebos, the arboretum has filed an insurance claim for over $100,000.
“The second phase of this is being able to re-leaf the arboretum. Those funds, no matter what they are, are going to help us plant trees for future generations,” said Schneider.
Replanting the trees will take money and time, but an online fundraiser for the arboretum hopes to help.
“We may not sit under the shade of the tree we plant today, but our future is great and these trees will be available for people to enjoy in future generations,” Schneider said.
The Iowa Arboretum is open to the public seven days a week. Hours of operation and ways to help donate to the recovery effort can be found on the arboretum’s website: iowaarboretum.org