'It looks really bad right now, but there'll be ecological benefits'

EUGENE, Ore. - Mount Pisgah Arboretum is open after being closed to visitors for over a week due to February's heavy snow, ice and wind storm.

Dozens of volunteers have been working to clean up the 209-acre park inside Howard Buford Recreation Area over the last week.

"If it wasn't for the volunteers, the monetary cost would be a lot more than we could bear," said the park's executive director, Bradley Von Appel. "But it's wonderful to see the community come out and help us."

Volunteers from Oregon Community Credit Union focused their efforts today on the Water Garden, which is one of only two features in the living museum that are still closed off.

Those are expected to be back open by the middle of the week.

"We were lucky to reopen today," says Von Appel. We got far enough on the cleanup that it's safe for folks to come out again today, although I would advise people to keep an eye overhead because there's still some branches that we're clearing out overhead. We've had some high winds and hopefully the loose ones have already come down."

Volunteers gathered hundreds of broken branches into piles to be cleared away over the next month.

Von Appel says while the Douglas fir trees seemed to survive the storm the best, the white oak savannas saw the most damage from the wind and ice.

"It's not necessarily a disaster, ecologically," Von Appel said. "It looks really bad right now, but there'll be ecological benefits of clearing out openings in the canopy. Branches that maybe weren't as strong came down and those trees will regrow new branches. So it's not the end of the world for the trees, as bad as it looks right now."

Von Appel expects the park to be fully cleaned up from the storm within the next 3 to 4 weeks.

The Mount Pisgah Arboretum is collecting donations to replace their service truck that was damaged in the storm.

To make a donation or to volunteer, call the arboretum at (541) 747-3819. They are also hosting a fundraising dinner at Mazzi's on Monday, February 24.

Present this flier between 5 and 9 p.m. to have 30 percent of your meal go towards helping the arboretum.