Neighborhood harvests pine-beetle trees |

Neighborhood harvests pine-beetle trees

Nicole Frey
Shane Macomber/Vail DailyHeliQwest International pilot Kyle Wadden drops another pine-beetle infested tree in Mountain Star, an Avon neighborhood that has pooled its funds to fight the destructive pest.

EAGLE ” Dangling from the helicopter, a huge claw attached to a hose waited for its next victim.

The four blades of the HeliQwest helicopter spun rapidly as pilot Kyle Wadden slowly lowered his aircraft. Then, when Wadden was at just the right height, the claw closed its jaws around its unhappy prey ” a tree trunk.

Wadden and his helicopter traveled from Montrose to the upscale Mountain Star neighborhood in Avon last week to help harvest about 90 trees, most of which had been killed by lodgepole pine beetles, the same bug that’s eating through much of the Vail Valley’s forests.

Mountain Star resident and Avon mayor Ron Wolfe said the gated community spent $70,000 on the project and will shell out $30,000 annually to spray the trees to prevent more infestation. And although Wolfe acknowledged the hefty price tag, he said he and his neighbors were happy to do it.

The helicopter cost more than regular ground machines, but the chopper helped minimize the impact to the forest, said consulting arborist Mark Stelle of Precision Tree Works, Inc.

For years, Stelle regularly checked the forests in Mountain Star where residents hiked and picnicked. For the last six years there were a few lodgepole pines infested with beetles in the 30-acre forest, but last year, Stelle noticed the problem had exploded.

So Mountain Star manager Jim Clarke contacted logger Ken Tacker who came in with a team and cut down the infested trees as well as a few leaners ” trees that would fall once the infested trees came out.

Once flown out, the trees were loaded on a truck and taken out of the neighborhood. The entire project took just one afternoon, but it was not without its obstacles. The hydraulic hose, which operates the claw, broke down and set the project back about half an hour, but the team persevered.

Jim Schultz, whose home borders the forest where beetle kill trees were harvested, said he was impressed with the speed of the project, and also enjoyed watching the helicopter do its work.

“It’s great,” Schultz said. “We need to do everything we can to preserve our little paradise up here.”

Even though Schultz splits his time between Avon and Austin, Tex., he said harvesting the beetle kill is just as important as if he were a full-time resident.

“You can’t let the environment get attacked like this,” he said. “The trees are essential to where we live.”

Staff Writer Nicole Frey can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14621, or

Vail, Colorado

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