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Effort to restore Gaylord's tree canopy is underway

Frank Claeys is the Chief of Police for the City of Gaylord.
Rick Brewer
Gaylord Chief of Police Frank Claeys stands in front of a pile of trees at the Otsego County fair grounds on May 24, 2022.

The City of Gaylord is still recovering from an EF-3 tornado that ripped through the community last May, claiming the lives of two people and injuring 44. Bringing trees back is the latest phase in the recovery effort.

"When you drive down certain streets in our city, you feel like you don't know where you are, because you're so disoriented because the trees are gone," said Erin Mann, disaster recovery coordinator for the Gaylord Long-Term Recovery group, whose leading the effort to bring back the tree canopy.

It's unclear how many trees were lost during the tornado, but Mann estimates Gaylord lost several hundred, if not over 1,000 trees.

The plan to restore the canopy will be a grassroots effort, because insurance companies don’t pay customers for the damaged or destroyed trees.

Mann recently sent out a surveyto begin the process for bringing more trees back to the community.

"Greenery is important, especially in northern Michigan. People come here to enjoy our beautiful landscape, and it is noticeably different," said Mann on a call with WCMU. "We're known as an Alpine Village, and we have this sweet little homey vibe, and downtown, and you can feel that some of those trees are missing."

Gaylord Long-Term Recovery will be strategic about where they plant trees, which is why they’re partnering with Huron Pines, a conversation group in northern Michigan, to help place trees in appropriate places.

Rick Brewer has been news director at WCMU since February 2024.