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From tinsel to studs: Repurposed Christmas trees becomes home foundation

FARGO - Despite the snow and cold, area boulevards are still seeing some green these days thanks to discarded Christmas trees.Instead of being thrown outside, a couple of high-profile trees will be brought inside to become permanent fixtures in s...

The Christmas tree outside of the Depot on Main Avenue will be milled and used in a future Habitat for Humanity project. David Samson / The Forum
The Christmas tree outside of the Depot on Main Avenue will be milled and used in a future Habitat for Humanity project. David Samson / The Forum
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FARGO - Despite the snow and cold, area boulevards are still seeing some green these days thanks to discarded Christmas trees.

Instead of being thrown outside, a couple of high-profile trees will be brought inside to become permanent fixtures in some special area homes.

Lake Agassiz Habitat for Humanity is teaming up with Fargo Parks and Dakota Timber Company to turn two big trees into lumber for Habitat houses.

"It's a cool way to pay it forward," says Pete Christopher, resource development and marketing manager at Lake Agassiz Habitat for Humanity.

He was inspired after learning that the Rockefeller Center Tree Christmas tree is milled down for Habitat houses.

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"(I'm not) one to shy away from borrowing other people's ideas," he says with a laugh.

He approached the Fargo Parks about the idea, and the organization agreed to donate the trees set up at the Depot on Main Avenue and at Rheault Farms, provided someone else mill the lumber - a job Dakota Timber Company was eager to do.

"It's a great way to involve the community, repurpose the wood and pay it forward. It's been a fun project to be a part of," says Sam DeMarais, forester with Fargo Parks.

Carlson feels the same.

"We like to do as much community give back as we can. Being able to utilize our facility to give back something is fun," says Seth Carlson, owner of Dakota Timber.

After the trees are removed and the logs cut to desired length, Carlson will give the wood a rough cut, kiln dry it for a couple of weeks then plane it or rip to width.

Last year - the first year of the project - Christopher estimates the trees yielded about 50 8-foot long 2-by-4 and 2-by-6 studs.

While last year's yield was covered inside a wall at the 2017 Hero Build, Christopher created a stencil to spray paint the special studs. The house was built on the site where Fargo Police Officer Jason Moszer was shot and killed in the line of duty during a standoff on Feb. 10, 2016. Moszer's widow, Rachel, left a note next to the stenciled mark, writing, "Many years of blessings from my family to yours."

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With this year's yield, Christopher is looking to do something more visible, like on the backside of an island.

"I think we're going to do something a little different this year, maybe more of a decorative piece," he says. "It's kind of an ever-evolving thing, how we're going to use the lumber."

Carlson says the amount of wood from the two 25-foot spruce trees isn't substantial and that the grain can be a bit knotty. Most use it for framing, but he's looking forward to other options, like paneling.

"I hope they choose to do something more fun than just 2-by-4s. Two-by-fours are boring ... I'll keep trying to talk them into do something funky and weirder than wall studs," Carlson says.

No matter how the lumber is used, Christopher is excited about what the project represents.

"Our program is all about giving families a new lease on life. With this project, we're giving a tree a new life in something that will live on for generations to come, which is very fitting for what our program is all about," Christopher says. "It's really cool to see these trees live on in something that is helping a local family."

For 20 years John Lamb has covered art, entertainment and lifestyle stories in the area for The Forum.
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