In Iowa, pilot program utilizes invasive tree species to build furniture

(Iowa DNR)

POLK CITY, Iowa – A pilot program is in its first year at Big Creek State Park utilizing black locust trees to build wooden chairs.

Chad Kelchen, DNR Park Manager of Big Creek State Park, began a program that gathered interested locals to learn about black locust trees, which are considered an invasive species, and at the same time, learn how to utilize the wood that is produced by them. So far, two volunteer groups have participated in constructing three log chairs contributing forty hours of volunteer service. Each chair has been hand-made in a learning process and will go to Springbrook State Park cabins.

The program focuses on educating people how to build wooden chairs, but also more importantly, how to remove black locust trees and finding common use for them. These chairs do not fit as ordinary templates and have to be pieced together as each individual piece wood is different in dimensions. State law allows trees to removed from state parks only by an issued permit.

Black locust trees are considered invasive species and had tendencies to spread aggressively. Black locus trees are native to Illinois but are commonly found in the Midwest and can grow up to 50 feet tall and 35 feet wide. The high-density wood produced from black locust trees is used for fence posts, outdoor furniture, decks and other projects that require weatherproof materials.

This will be a winter season program taking advantage of locust trees that are still somewhat green and workable.  Volunteer events will be scheduled through the end of February 2019 and limited to one program per week of up to five participants.

“This has been a pilot program to test the feasibility of creating a use for a tree species that dominates the landscape and prevents other tree species from being established as a part of a healthy ecosystem.  Ideally, this program will continue in the future as a partnership with private groups, businesses or individuals.  Our goal is to create a demand for a species that causes harm to our ecosystems.”

For further information contact Big Creek State Park at

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