When a tree falls in a neighborhood, where does it go?

A fallen tree on East Johnson Street

MADISON, Wis. — When a tree falls in a residential neighborhood, it definitely makes a sound, but what happens to it after? Officials with Madison’s Streets Division say it gets turned into mulch.

Twigs, branches and entire trees littered Madison’s streets Monday after a strong storm system rolled through the area, causing widespread damage along the way. Since then, Streets Division crews — equipped with chainsaws, large mechanical claws, dump trucks and rakes — have worked to clear the city’s roadways so energy crews can restore power for the thousands of residents still without it.

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Bryan Johnson with the Streets Division said in an email to News 3 Now that all of the brush collected in those efforts eventually makes its way to the division’s waste dumping site on Olin Avenue. There, crews feed the brush they’ve collected into an industrial wood chipper.

Once the wood has been mulched, the city makes it available in small quantities for residents to use at no cost. Larger quantities of mulch are available for purchase from the city.

Trees that haven’t fallen but look like they might call for a different response, Johnson said.

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The Urban Forestry Department, which is a department within the Streets Division, is in charge of responding to residents’ calls about trees on public property. Most often, those are the trees planted on the grassy space between the sidewalk and the curb.

Once the group gets a call about a tree that looks like it might fall, trained arborists will respond to assess it.

Because the Urban Forestry Department only manages trees on city property, any residents concerned about trees falling on their property should reach out to a certified arborist. The Wisconsin Arborist Association makes it easy to do so with a few clicks of a button online.

Given the widespread damage in the Madison area, Johnson said residents should also be wary of scammers who might go door-to-door asking for people who are dealing with tree damage to pay them for help with removal. He also noted that if any residents have issues with a city tree, the Urban Forestry Department will handle it for free. Residents can get in touch with the department via phone at 608-266-4816 or by filling out an online form.

More information about the city’s brush collection site and mulching practices is available online.