Irene Adds to a Brutal Year for Prospect Park's Trees

Prospect Park's trees were walloped by Hurricane Irene, with 150 of them uprooted or severely damaged.

It's the latest bad news for the park, where harsh weather, including a tornado last fall, has already done a number on trees over the past year.

"This past year it's been ice storms, snowstorms, tornadoes, hurricanes," said Luis Lemus, the park's head arborist. "It's just storm after storm after storm has been devastating the trees." 

Lemus was working yesterday on taking down a 60-feet-tall, 100-year-old sugar maple near the park's lake whose trunk snapped in the storm.

"This was one of the most beautiful trees you've ever seen. It had a beautiful display in the fall," he said, adding he was sad to see it go. "It is very hard."

A park spokesman said 100 trees were knocked down and another 50 were split in half or had large limbs completely torn off.

Among the hardest hit spots was Drummers' Grove, where an African drum circle gathers on Sundays.

The groups was looking forward to a drum circle and children's festival this weekend as part of Labor Day celebrations, but now will likely have to scale back the event.

"it would usually be a big day for us," said Fela Cameron of the Congo Square Drummers.

"If the area is messed up, that's going to interfere."

The park is raising money for the hurricane cleanup with a Walk-a-thon Sept. 18 to pay for emergency tree care and the replacement of uprooted trees, and the Brooklyn Community Foundation will match donations up to $25,000.

"The damage that was done was extensive and we wanted to really be there for them," said Brooklyn Community Foundation President Marilyn Gelber. "This year has been a difficult year."

Park officials say the number of tree casualties could still rise as arborists survey areas deeper into the woods.

Charles Yaw, 41, of the Bronx, who was visiting the park yesterday, said he was shocked by the extent of the damage.

"When I came...and saw this I was like, 'Oh man. It's terrible,'" he said. "I couldn't believe it."