Wednesday, August 31, 2016 - 9:15am

Ash Trees Find A New Purpose

In 2016, nearly 1,000 ash trees are slated for removal from Madison parks. A new partnership between the City of Madison Parks Division and Wisconsin Urban Wood will allow local residents and others to purchase lumber or handcrafted products from local trees. 
Wisconsin Urban Wood is a Madison-based, statewide 501c3, nonprofit organization that networks local, independent businesses under the Wisconsin Urban Wood brand to create the most sustainable wood supply possible for their areas.
“Local wood is what Wisconsin Urban Wood is all about,” says Twink Jan-McMahon, executive director of Wisconsin Urban Wood. We connect condemned trees with local processors and woodworkers so the trees can be used for their highest and best uses in lumber, flooring, furniture, art, architecture, and a variety of goods made from wood. “We’re very excited about this new partnership with Madison Parks.”
Every year, millions of trees in urban areas are removed from streets, backyards, parks and other green spaces due to storms, construction, disease or insects such as the emerald ash borer (EAB). Unfortunately, most of these trees are turned to wood chips and firewood or hauled to landfills as “waste.” According to the U.S. Forest Service, salvaged timber generated annually from urban tree removals could produce 3.8 billion board feet of sustainable lumber.
“The adaptive reuse of urban wood allows us to be sure that EAB won’t have the last word when it comes to our ash trees. We think Madison residents will share our appreciation for this silver lining to the loss ash and other park trees,” says Eric Knepp, Parks Superintendent. The beetle kills the tree, but the wood is left intact. Like Parks, Wisconsin Urban Wood prioritizes a healthy forest, and only salvages lumber from trees that need to be removed because of death, disease and unavoidable circumstances. 
The arrangement works as a cost neutral trade between Parks and Wisconsin Urban Wood partners. Parks provides the logs and Wisconsin Urban Wood sawyers produce lumber for park benches, maintenance materials, and over time, finished conference tables. “Knowing the trees will live on makes us feel a lot better about having to take them down,” says Charlie Romines, Assistant Superintendent for Parks Operations “Cutting the trees to preserve the log actually reduces fatigue and boosts morale for our crews.”
The remainder of the wood from Madison’s trees will be kiln dried and available through local businesses including, Habitat for Humanity Dane County ReStore, The Wood Cycle, Baraboo Woodworks, and Blue Terra Design. More information can be found on
“Wood, like food, is most sustainable when it is sourced, processed, and purchased locally,” says Jan-McMahon. The success of this arrangement will ultimately be in the hands of the residents. When residents buy local wood, they reduce transportation emissions, reduce waste, and make it possible for local businesses to stay involved in salvaging the wood from these trees.

  • Eric Knepp, Madison Parks Superintendent
  • Charlie Romines, Assistant Superintendent, Madison Parks Operations (608) 267-8804
  • Twink Jan-McMahon, Executive Director, Wisconsin Urban Wood (WUW) 608-622-7212
  • Paul Morrison, WUW, The Wood Cycle of Oregon (608) 835-8462
  • Fred Clark, WUW, Baraboo Woodworks (608) 663-1010 
  • Learn more:


  • Wisconsin Urban Wood, Twink Jan-McMahon, (608)622-7212
  • Madison Parks Media Contact: Ann Shea,