August 24th, 2019

Carriage museum offers new use for city elm trees

By Kalinowski, Tim on May 8, 2019.

A pedestrian walks by a row of elm trees suffering with relatively leafless and dark branches along a southside street in 2016 as the urban forest came under the attack of European elm scale. Herald file photo by Ian Martens @IMartensHerald

Tim Kalinowski

Lethbridge Herald

The Remington Carriage Museum based in Cardston is expressing its thanks to the City of Lethbridge for the gift of some elm logs earlier this spring which will help them with their restoration work for years to come.

“About three months ago I contacted the City of Lethbridge and indicated if they had any elm they could send my way I would be interested in having it, and explained the uses I have for it,” recalls the museum’s head of restoration services Jeremy Masterson. “I was contacted back almost right away and they were in the process of removing three or four trees around Lethbridge, and we made arrangements whereby they would chop up the trunks into pieces that were manageable for what we needed.”

The Carriage Museum uses elm for its nationally recognized restoration and reproduction work on wooden wheel hubs for traditional carriages and carts.

“We were grateful to get them,” says Masterson. “They will be used primarily for making reproduction hubs. In the days of the wooden wagon wheel, elm was the wood of choice for the best hubs. It is very difficult for us to obtain the correct material because of the threat of Dutch elm disease and other factors.

“It is available for the cabinet and woodworking industry, but it would be impossible for me to obtain these rounds of trunk needed to make the hubs like they used to do 100-plus years ago. These trees wouldn’t have gone to any other use. They would have just been destroyed. Now, they will have a second use that will carry on.”

City of Lethbridge urban forestry foreman Don Nishikawa said the timing in this case was fortuitous as the City had scheduled the four trees for planned removal just when Masterson called.

“It’s a one-off – not something we would do every day,” says Nishikawa. “We only did it because we had the wood anyway, it’s the Remington and it’s for something historical. We thought it was a great idea.”

Nishikawa wants to remind residents due to the danger of spreading Dutch elm disease the province imposes a pruning ban between April 1 and Sept. 30. Any removed trees taken down before that ban takes effect are normally cut up into logs, debarked with fire, chipped and disposed of at the City’s waste disposal site. The logs in this case were turned over to the Remington Carriage Museum with strict handling conditions attached, he says.

“You can’t store them in your yard after they are cut without debarking them,” states Nishikawa. “They were told they would have to burn off the bark and debark them.”

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