Local government works with volunteers to clean up Finn Park

One doesn’t have to look far to find complete community collaboration between city and people if you live in Carbon County, Montana. This month, city government, the Red Lodge Fire Department, the Red Lodge Area Community Foundation, and local volunteers helped fell, trim, cut, log, and haul off three 100-plus-year-old cottonwood trees from Finn Park.

The project, which has been in the works since 2017, came to fruition in early July as Red Lodge Fire Department employees worked to fell three large cottonwood trees in Finn Park. The trees had been growing old and rotting, and their lives had come full circle.

The project’s success was thanks in part to a grant through the Department of Natural Resource Council (DNRC), which the City of Red Lodge was successful in obtaining.

“This project was identified in the 2017 Urban Forestry Plan update,” said Neil Matthews-Pennanen, an assistant planner for the City of Red Lodge. “Someone came through, looked at the trees in this park, and identified it as a public safety hazard. We’ve been planning this for several years, applied for a grant through the DNRC…and made Finn Park a safer place to enjoy.”

Jeff Hermanns, who works for the DNRC, said this is a pretty usual lifecycle for a forest – or urban forest in Finn Park’s case. The trees grow up, grow old, and eventually die.

“The purpose of the grant is to try and maintain and improve the urban forest in our community,” Hermanns said. “And we’ve got these big, beautiful cottonwood trees that are likely a couple hundred years old.”

Senior citizens, low-income families, and all those in need of affordable firewood in the winter become benefactors of this project. Through the Red Lodge Area Community Foundation, the Firewood Assistance Program aims to supply half-cords of wood to those who may not be physically or financially to obtain their own.

Therese Picasso-Edwards, Resilient Community Program Leader, said thanks to the help of a “super volunteer,” the Firewood Assistance Program will start off on the right foot this winter.

“It’s a cool partnership here at Finn Park, between the City of Red Lodge, the DNRC and the Red Lodge Area Community Foundation,” Picasso-Edwards said. “We asked one of our super volunteers, Jaime Clemmons – who has helped us by using his property to pallet and wrap the wood – to come here and retrieve the logs and take back to his property to use for the firewood program.”

To volunteer for the Firewood Assistance Program or to apply for firewood, please reach out to Therese Picasso-Edwards at therese@rlacf.org or by calling 406-446-2820.