Initial trees planted at tree farm in spring of 2014

The Hannibal parks system offers a great deal to be proud of if you are Andy Dorian, director of the Parks and Recreation Department. But during a meeting earlier this summer of the Park Board it wasn’t a park that Dorian took the time to gush about.

“The tree farm is one of the most impressive things in town,” said Dorian, whose department’s personnel tend to the property.

Also impressed with the state of the tree farm is City Manager Jeff LaGarce, who proposed the endeavor a handful of years ago.

“I think it’s a neat thing,” he said. “I would like to keep it going. When trees are harvested and transplanted, we’ll put new ones in their place, and cultivate them.”

The farm is located on a relatively small parcel of land a stone’s throw from Bear Creek in a neighborhood off of Warren Barrett Drive.

“We purchased a flood site that wasn’t ideally located for a park conversion,” said LaGarce of the property. “So we made something else out of it; something fairly cheap in cost, that would produce something good for the community in years to come.”

Initially the concept of creating a tree farm was raised as a way to save the city significant money when it came time to purchase and plant a tree on city right-of-way.

“Each (tree farm) tree costs something like 60 cents,” said LaGarce. “We can use these trees throughout the community at almost no out-of-pocket cost.”

How much the tree farm has saved the city, as opposed to buying trees from a commercial grower, is difficult to assess thus far.

“It’s hard to guess, but I’m told a commercial tree can run $1,100 purchased and installed,” said LaGarce.

The tree farm literally took root a few springs ago when roughly 310 small trees were planted by city personnel.

“We planted these trees in April 2014. They were largely twigs,” said LaGarce. “It takes several years for them to mature to the level that we can transplant them.”

The trees planted initially have done surprisingly well.

“We anticipated a larger mortality rate, but the vast majority of trees are doing well. Mortality has been only 10 percent or so,” said LaGarce. “A number of them are growing large.”

“Every tree is alive and growing,” reported Dorian in July. “Some of them are to the point where we’re going to have to keep some of them there.”

“Some need to be moved now or it will be a reforestation site,” said Kristy Trevathan, president of the city’s Tree Board, during the board’s July 5 meeting.

The time has come for new locations on city property to be found for the tree farm’s “graduates.”

“We transplanted some of these trees last year, but this year will be the first real harvest,” said LaGarce, estimating “about a dozen” trees from the farm have been replanted thus far.

“We’re going to have to transplant a heck of a lot of trees this fall,” added Dorian. “One of our (Parks Department) crews is going to transplant trees.”

Potential relocation sites proposed by the Tree Board this summer include the riverfront during its renovation, and in Central Park and Huckleberry Park. It has also been suggested some could be used as replacement trees for those that did not survive last year’s planting in the BASF reforestation site off of Ely Street.

Reach reporter Danny Henley at danny.henley@courierpost.com