MADISON, Wis. - A single fallen oak tree in the middle of Orton Park is all that's left as a reminder of the damage caused by last week's severe storms.
"To have the tree just disappear, to have them come and chop it up, it just disappears; it's an absence. You leave it in the park and there is a story to tell," said Melody Niwot, a mother of two in the neighborhood.
Neighbors like Niwot are now hoping to turn one of the three oak trees lost in the storm into a positive symbol in the community.
"Our kids saw a lot of devastation with the storm last week. They woke up in the middle of the night to sirens going off, their parents yanking them out of bed, pulling them down into the basement. They woke up in the morning and saw trees down all over the place, roofs torn off; there has been a lot of questions about that, said Niwot.
Niwot feels because of the questions children in the community have been asking, the community should leave the tree in the park as a reminder of the storm. Neighbors said it would also allow for community members to teach their children about reclaiming and reusing natural resources, while providing an unstructured space for children to express themselves. It's an idea many community members support.
"It just feels really right that this material is already here for our use. It is already a part of the park. It's not something we need to go buy. It's a carbon sync to keep this right where it grew," said resident, Lesie Sehroeder.
Leslie Sehroeder is one of the neighbors who hopes to use parts of the tree to build a natural playground to provide a creative space for children to explore.
"Some of the play structures now, they almost play for the kids. The kids know where they are supposed to climb, the kids knows where they are supposed to slide. But there is something that is a free form or natural shape, like a tree. This tree might be a horse, this tree might be a rocket ship, this tree can be their imagination," said Sehroeder.
Although it is not an official part of the playground, kids around the neighborhood have already begun to make the tree into their own natural jungle gym. It's a tree with a history and story Niwot wants the community to have for years to come.
"This is physical evidence about what happened. It's a story for our children to learn from and talk about. Keeping the trees also sends a message to our kids about taking care of precious resources," she said.
The Parks Department has agreed to leave the tree in the park until a decision has been made.
In a statement by the Madison parks forestry staff, they said staff are currently working on storm clean-up efforts.
When they are done, they plan to address the tree in question at Orton park with the neighbors.
Members in the Marquette neighborhood are asking for community support, by liking their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/ortonparknaturalplay