Helicopter being used to remove logs from habitat area at Detroit's Belle Isle Park

A view of Belle Isle in Detroit (WDIV)
A view of Belle Isle in Detroit (WDIV)

DETROIT – Parts of Belle Isle park in Detroit will be temporarily closed when crews use a helicopter as part of an effort combat oak wilt disease in trees.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the Belle Isle Conservancy say the helicopter will transport logs out of a sensitive habitat area at the island park in the Detroit River. The work is expected to take place over two days in the week that starts Sunday.

It's part of an effort to protect a forest at the park. A survey says oak wilt may have killed as many as 112 trees.

Oak wilt is a fungus that can spread between trees through underground root connections, or grafts. Spores also can be spread by beetles attracted to the fungus' smell.

More info from the DNR: 

In fall 2016, a survey was conducted that revealed that oak wilt may have killed as many as 112 trees in a rare flatwoods forest near the center of the island. The DNR quickly drafted a plan to contain and manage the disease in order to protect the historic forest and some of the state’s last remaining Shumard’s oaks. It was determined that oak wilt may have been present for many years.

In late December, crews completed the first of four management phases, which involved severing the roots between infected and healthy trees using a plow outfitted with a special cutting blade. The second phase, which began this week, will include cutting down and removing dead trees before fungal mats develop and allow the disease to spread. To prevent damage caused by heavy equipment, the helicopter will be used to transport felled logs to a staging area in the island for processing. This technique was determined to have the least impact to the surrounding flatwoods forest.