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'It's sentimental' : Fallen trees brings mess, sense of loss

Chuck and Kris Jensen lost about 16 trees in their yard to the July 2 storm. They lost hundreds of trees in their 40 acres of forest. Submitted Photo1 / 2
The Jensens had to cut their way out of their garage to start the cleanup process. Their main driveway is still blocked by a 150-year-old white pine tree. Submitted Photo2 / 2

BEMIDJI - Growing up, Erik Jensen liked to sit under the white pine tree that stood at the end of his family's driveway.

Now, that 150-year-old tree lies across the Jensens' driveway.

"When I was little, those two big white pines were my favorite trees," Jensen said. "It's too bad to lose that tree. At least we still have the one by the house."

That tree was one of the first things Chuck and Kris Jensen saw when they looked at the home on 23rd Street Southeast 20 years ago.

"The biggest thing for us is the loss of that big white pine," Chuck Jensen said. "We just keep reminding ourselves that we're all OK, which we can't believe."

The Jensens are just one of many families in the Bemidji area who lost their favorite tree to the July 2 storm.

"People love the forests because it's where we live," Pete Aube, lumber mill manager for Potlatch Corporation, said. "We care about how they look, how they're managed. We use their products and use them for recreation. They're critical to our lives."

The Chippewa National Forest has released preliminary numbers from the storm, saying 189,400 acres were affected by the storm, with 12,000 acres severely damaged.

The four campgrounds within the forest - South Pike Bay, Norway Beach, West Winnie and Tamarack - have all been indefinitely closed, Darla Lenz, forest supervisor of the Chippewa National Forest, said. However, the six resorts within the forest are all open for business.

The goal now is to take care of the forests while working to utilize the timber lost during the storm, Aube said at Friday's meeting of the Bemidji Area Forestry Affairs Council.

And while foresters look at timber on public lands, private property owners are dealing with their own mess - and feeling the loss of trees that made their property unique and special.

The Jensens lost about 16 trees in their yard, but their home sits on 40 acres of forest.

"Looking into the woods, it gets into the hundreds," Chuck Jensen said. "It's just one after another. It's just amazing there was no damage to our house."

Chuck Jensen said a local mill was interested in salvaging the downed timber.

The Jensens' home's windows and roof withstood the 80 mph straight-line winds that barreled through the area July 2.

"Other than some branches, the only thing to hit our house was our flag pole," Chuck Jensen said. "As it was happening, I figured we wouldn't have a house when it was over."

When the storm hit, Chuck and Erik went to the basement for only the second time since Chuck and Kris moved to Bemidji 30 years ago.

"I'm trying to hustle him downstairs and he's looking out the windows at all the trees," Chuck Jensen said.

Erik Jensen said he was amazed by the trees coming down around the house.

"I was really just hoping the tree right in front of our house wouldn't fall," Erik Jensen said.

Kris Jensen was at a church meeting when the storm hit.

"We lost power and went to the basement, but it wasn't until I started driving home I realized how bad it had been," Kris Jensen said. "I tried to call on the cell phone but I couldn't reach them."

She was busy looking at the damage on the other side of the road when she pulled into her driveway, Kris Jensen said.

"I saw the tree down across our driveway, and I thought the house was gone," Kris Jensen said. "I couldn't get in the front door we had so many trees down."

While they did as much cleanup as they could on their own, professionals will come in sometime in the next couple weeks to remove the rest of the trees, Chuck Jensen said.

"The biggest thing is the sadness of the mess," Chuck Jensen said. "We just sit outside and look at the mess."

The family has also been busy cleaning up the trail that goes through their woods.

"It is nice to see that there is new growth in the woods, so some day someone will have the beautiful trees we had," Kris Jensen said. "Saying we're sad our favorite tree is gone might seem silly, but it's sentimental."