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Donated Christmas trees provide fish habitat

Submitted photo Kinzua Fish and Wild Life Association volunteers who placed Christmas tree reefs in the Allegheny Reservoir.

A Christmas tree can serve an additional use besides a place to store presents until the morning of Dec. 25.

Once the yuletide is finished and the ornaments have been removed, the Christmas tree can now be used to provide habitat for fish in the Allegheny Reservoir. Since 1983, the Kinzua Fish and Wild Life Association has been using donated Christmas Trees and placing them in the reservoir to provide fish cover and a place to spawn. Pauline Bauer, Kinzua Fish and Wild Life Association president, said the water level fluctuates in the reservoir because of the Kinzua Dam, which prevents the growth of plants under water.

“Nothing will grow at the base of the Allegheny Reservoir,” she said.

Bauer said volunteers drill a hole in the trunk of the trees and tie them to cement blocks with wire. The trees meshed together become a reef and then are dragged to the shorelines near creek beds and river channels.

“We drag them to wherever we think we need structure,” she said. “We’ve concentrated on Red Bridge in the past. This year, it was Sugar Bay. We put 246 trees in Sugar Bay and we put 200 in at Kiasutha Campground.”

Submitted photo Kinzua Fish and Wild Life Association volunteers collecting donated Christmas trees from the city of Jamestown.

The Christmas tree reefs are made to look like a bed of leaves, which fish use as an area to spawn or to hide from larger predatory fish.

“It allows small fish a place to hide so they’re not eaten by bigger fish,” she said. “It gives them an area to spawn so they can hide under the trees. Fish like to have cover.”

Bauer said the reefs are placed in the winter because the ground is frozen. If the ground is not frozen, there is too much mud. She said currently, prior to Wednesday’s warm weather conditions, the high level of snow has made placing the tree reefs a challenge.

“This winter, everything is snow covered, so it’s tough to get to the shoreline,” she said.

If the ground thaws, Bauer said the group receives assistance from the forest service to use boats to place the reefs in the reservoir.

“We have around 200 more trees to put in,” she said.

Bauer said, so far, the association has received 246 trees from the city of Jamestown. She said there is still about 200 more trees the group will haul from Jamestown to place in the reservoir. She added that they also get donated trees from Warren, Bradford, Sheffield, Kane and Mt. Jewett in Pennsylvania.

“We use approximately 700 trees,” she said. “Our club is 38 years old. It’s been an ongoing effort every year.”

Dan Stone, Jamestown arborist, said it’s great that the residential Christmas trees city employees collect following the holidays goes toward a great cause. He said the city has been donating Christmas trees to the association for two years. He added prior to that there were five farmers who wanted the trees for habitat for rabbits, goats or turkeys, but that eventually ended.

“The older generation that used to do that has moved on,” he said. “For two years, we went with (no one claiming the used Christmas trees.)”

Stone said city officials keep some of the Christmas trees for wood chips. He said city residents can receive wood chips from the city for free. He added that the city also uses the wood chips for tree plantings.

“We don’t need all of (the Christmas trees), especially this year we’ve done a lot of tree projects,” Stone said.

Along with Bauer being the president of the Kinzua Fish and Wild Life Association, Jim Hillman is the vice president, Sarah Dixon is the treasurer and Peggy King is the secretary. For those still with a real Christmas tree, a donation to the association can be made at the following drop off locations: former Graybill Marine along Route 321; Paul’s Trading Post along Route 321; Bradford Department of Public Works along Holley Avenue; Glenwood Park in Kane; Point Park in Warren; Memorial Park in Sheffield; S & T Excavating, 913 Windfall Road, Saint Marys; and Mt Jewett Sportsmans (area will be marked).

For more information about the association, visit their Facebook page at facebook.com/kinzuafishwildlifeassociation.

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