Annie Socci pointed toward the rotted middle of a freshly cut cherry tree.
Socci and her fellow members of the Foundation for Sustainable Forests knew there was a problem with the 80- to 100-year-old tree, though they didn't know what was wrong until it was cut down.
"When we looked at its crown, you could tell the tree was stressed," said Socci, the foundation's executive director. "Parts of the crown were dead."
Dozens of dead or diseased trees were removed Wednesday from a wooded section of Glenwood Park between Parkside Drive and Glenwood Park Avenue, just east of the Erie Zoo. It's the first stage of the city of Erie's new formal, environmentally-friendly management program for the wooded properties it owns.
The Spartansburg-based foundation is partnering with the city on the two-day project, which is designed to improve the urban forest by culling sick and dead trees. Their removal will allow other, healthy trees to thrive, said Guy Dunkle, a forester and foundation board member.
"Some of these ash trees are infected with the emerald ash borer, others are simply trees near the end of their lifespan," Dunkle said. "Their removal will allow younger trees to get more sunlight."
Trees marked with an "X" were to be cut down but had no timber value. Those marked with a slash were to be cut down and the timber sold for various uses, and those marked with a circle were to be cut down and the timber sold to make pallets.
The foundation hired Albert Detweiler and Junior Fisher, two Amish men from Crawford County, to remove the trees. They arrived with chainsaws, and two teams of draft horses to drag the trees out of the forest.
The nearly 1,800-pound horses were perfect for tree removal in areas like Glenwood Park, Dunkle said.
"They are smaller and lighter than any vehicle, so they don't disrupt the topsoil," Dunkle said. "They also can navigate their way through the forest better than a vehicle and cause less damage to other trees."
Usable timber from the culled trees will be sold and any money remaining after covering costs will be used for programs at other urban forests in Erie, said Sarah Galloway, the city's sustainability coordinator.
"We will be heading to McClelland Park, where it will cost money to remove some invasive species there," Galloway said. "We also plan to go to Roma Park (near East 35th Street and Zimmerman Road)."
After spending several hours among the trees in Glenwood Park, Dunkle and Socci both said they were impressed with the urban forest.
"This is a surprisingly healthy forest ecosystem," Dunkle said. "You have older trees mixed in with younger ones. It's in good shape."
David Bruce can be reached at 870-1736 or by email. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ETNbruce.