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City offers help for trees damaged by storms and drought
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Mark and Leslie Mingenback love their new ornamental crab apple tree that replaced a mature tree that was crowding both the house and another tree in their Broadway landscaping. They have used the tree rebate program several times, and will continue to plant trees for future generations. - photo by VERONICA COONS, Great Bend Tribune

When high speed winds pushed through yards in Great Bend Sept. 10 and 11, trees and branches were scattered across yards and driveways in different parts of the city, and its taken time to clean up and haul away the mess. For those who lost trees, now is a great time to take advantage of the Great Bend Tree Board’s tree rebate and dead tree removal program, said Arborist Michael Fletcher, a member of the tree board.  
“Anytime is a great time to plant a tree, but some times are better than others,” he said.  
Fall and early spring are especially good, because the trees are either going into or coming out of dormancy.

Participants pleased
Mark and Leslie Mingenback have used the program a couple times, most recently they replaced an ornamental tree, which was crowding both the house and another tree.  
The storm earlier this month was no match for this new tree, which suffered only minor damage to its leaves. Neither were the cows, which escaped the neighboring dairy farm  after the power went out rendering their electric fence dead, and walked across the lawn where the tree grows. But in other storms,they’ve lost trees, and they used the program at those times.  
“Doc Polson always told us we don’t plant trees for ourselves, we plant them for our grandchildren,” Mark said, recalling one of the past chairpersons of the Great Bend Tree Board who served during his time many years ago serving as a Great Bend City Council person.
When the Mingenbacks went shopping for trees, they learned the cost of trees had gone up significantly from years past. They were excited about the program when it rolled out.  
“We’ll continue to add trees and use the rebate program and we encourage others to use it too,” Mark said. They chose a crabapple tree as an ornamental in front of their house, and a Shumard oak for the backyard. In the past, they’ve had Ash strees that succumbed to disease. 
Mark grew up on McKinney Drive, and can recall when there were virtually no trees. His family and neighbors planted trees, and today, the neighborhood has a totally different look and feel. He and his wife will continue to plant new trees, he said, knowing the biggest payoff will be for those who enjoy them years from now.
Perry Smith has used the rebate program three times in the past four years. He had two redbud trees planted in the Broadway median in front of his house to fill in a few holes in the Lions planting. He also replaced three silver maples in his front yard, which had suffered from an insect infestation and drought over the past few years. He picked the caddo maple on the recommendation of a PHD candidate at K-State. It’s drought resistant and does better than silver maple in this area, he was told.   
He also used the rebate program when he had a storm damaged tree removed from his backyard two years ago.   
“It was kind of surprising finding it laying over on its side,” he said. That’s a sentiment many others in Great Bend have had over the past few weeks, he’s certain, after high winds littered his street with branches and leaves Sept. 10.  
Terry and MelEesa Stueder learned about the rebate program earlier this year when they replaced a group of white birch trees in their Twin Lakes front yard after it they failed following the 2012-2013 drought period. They chose a clump birch, a variety better suited to this area, on the advice they received from the nursery.  They also replaced a pear that had slowly died over the same period.  
Trees are very important to the couple, who have lived in their home for the past 15 years, and in that time have watched trees grow, like children, slow and straight. They’ve also watched as others have failed or succumbed to damage, needing replacement.    
The Stueders learned about the tree rebate program when an employee of the nursery arrived to plant their newest trees.  
“It was a pleasant surprise,” Terry said. They simply filled out the application and attached the receipt and sent it in, and received a rebate check soon after, he said. They plan to recommend it to their daughter who recently purchased a home.  

How the program works
For each dead tree removed from their property, the rebate is half the cost of up to $150, but there are some requirements in order to be eligible. First, the tree has to be dead before it is removed. A photo of the dead tree, including a permanent landmark like the corner of the house. Second, the removal must be completed by a licensed contractor. Fletcher has had several applicants for the program in recent weeks who removed the tree themselves or who hired non-licensed  contractors, and those requests have been denied.  
“We want to make sure removal is done in a way that is safe to people and property,” he said.  
The tree rebate program gives applicants back half the cost of up to two trees, with a maximum rebate of $75 per tree and a maximum total of $150.  
“The more the merrier,” Fletcher said when asked if there was any limit to the number of people who could take part in the program. For the first few years Fletcher was on the board, it seemed they couldn’t give the money away, he said. But word seems to be getting out now, in part due to local nurseries making sure customers are informed. For now, the program is open only to residences within the city limits, he said.  
The Great Bend Tree Board aims to encourage participants in the program to consider diversity in their choices. A wide variety of trees which vary in size, shape and growth speed are on the list of approved trees. Fletcher added, that if a customer is interested in a variety of trees that may not be on the list, he has the authority to consider it if asked.  
“We’d like to see more variety in specimens throughout the city,” Fletcher said. “Back in the 1970s and 80s, there were several silver maples and Siberian and Dutch elm trees planted, and now diseases have affected many of them.”
Applications for the programs and a list of approved trees are available at the City of Great Bend office, area nurseries, or online at .