Tree project delays near Lake Zorinsky Park frustrate neighbors

Published: Apr. 15, 2021 at 12:14 AM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Neighbors living around Zorinsky Lake Park will have less shade this summer. A border space is being cut on the tree-lined edges of the popular recreation area, though understanding the reasons some neighbors say the project has been no picnic for them.

From his dining room, homeowner Rick Parker can’t see the forest without the trees cut and piled up on government land behind his house.

“Yeah, it’s a mess,” he said.

The Army Corps of Engineers has a quarter of a million-dollar contract with an Oklahoma contractor to cut a 30-food-wide maintenance border and fire break.

“The purpose is good, but they tore down a lot of beautiful trees,” Parker said.

Tree branches have been piled up since last fall making the project the talk of the neighborhood.

“They left us very frustrated,” one neighbor said. “Our backyards are a mess. It’s time for someone to put their feet to the fire — well, let’s do it.”

The project manager said the project hasn’t always been a walk in the park.

“Unfortunately, the weather in February and March really impacted them as far as the snow we got in February, and the cold temperatures in March,” said Tommy Aldmeyer, Corps project engineer.

And he says COVID-19 hit the contractors crew, “which delayed them a significant amount of time.”

And mulching wood piles has been delayed by muddy or soft ground shown by a machine stuck on Friday.

“Tired of seeing how long this has taken, and this is just an example,” Parker said.

The project was scheduled to take 180 days. The four-person crew clears trees from about seven acres surrounding Zorinsky Lake.

The deadline for getting the job done is April 30.

The contractor hasn’t asked yet but can request an extension without penalty if he can show days the crew couldn’t safely work. The Corps engineer anticipates the project could go about three weeks to a month past the scheduled completion date if weather doesn’t cause more delay.

“They are really doing a good job,” Aldmeyer said. “The trees are coming down — we got to be patient.”

The project engineer said he hopes within a couple of weeks, most of the woodpiles will be gobbled up when heavy equipment can safely do the job. He said 95% of the trees are down, and the contractor was careful to not go beyond 30 feet unless necessary.

Once the wood debris is cleared away that buffer will be planted with grass.

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