Wood for good

This curio shelf is made from urban waste wood donated by the City of Olympia Photo Janet Pearce/DNR
This curio shelf is made from urban waste wood donated by the city of Olympia. Photo Janet Pearce/DNR

Waste not, want not. Sometimes urban trees need to be removed due to poor health, damage, or development activities. In the past, this urban waste wood was often sent to landfills. In better situations, it’s repurposed for ‘low-end’ uses, such as mulch or firewood. Yet, the Cedar Creek Corrections Center’s sawmill and carpentry shop is taking this resource to an even greater level and turning out high-end reuse products – good news for urban ‘waste’ wood and our communities.

Thanks to special project funding through the USDA Forest Service, and in partnership with Cedar Creek Corrections Center, DNR’s Urban and Community Forestry Program is able to show how to put urban wood to good use. With a portable sawmill, a drying room, and a carpentry shop, Cedar Creek has turned urban waste wood into beautiful bowls, boxes and benches. Some of these beautifully crafted products are returned to wood donors while others are donated to non-for-profit charitable organizations, or schools.

The Urban Wood Utilization Project promotes the use of urban waste wood resources for their highest and best use while developing viable job skills for minimum security prison inmates.

Offenders at Cedar Creek, and other correction centers across the state, play a critical role helping to fight summer wildfires. In the off-season, programs such as the Cedar Creek carpentry program provide additional opportunities for crews to earn modest funds to help support them upon release, and continue developing marketable green-collar experience.

Who donates urban waste wood?

Anyone! Here are a couple of examples:

A few years ago, the city of Olympia created a long-term plan to remove and replace several oak trees from Legion Way. These trees had had their tops cut off, a detrimental practice called topping, and the branches that grew back were weak and likely to break, especially during a storm. The city donated the wood to Cedar Creek’s urban wood project where it was crafted into a park bench and stools for Arbutus Folk School’s ceramics program.

A couple of years ago several black locust trees at 11th Street in Olympia were growing into electric wires after having been topped. When the state’s Department of Enterprise Services had to remove them, they donated the urban waste wood to Cedar Creek. Cedar Creek’s shop used the wood to build a bench and make decorative and functional bowls.

To make an urban waste wood donation, contact DNR at urban_forestry@dnr.wa.gov.

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