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Chula Vista Business Turns Fallen Trees Into Unique Furniture

A Chula Vista business is giving new life to fallen trees.

San Diego Urban Timber is using the reclaimed wood to showcase smart choices in urban forestry.

Workers recently milled a Torrey Pine tree that provided shade to a South Bay home for more than 100 years.

"It was over 120 feet tall, and I was worried about it falling on the house," said homeowner Mitchell Smith.

The tree became infested with beetles, and after years of drought was too weak to fight off the insects.

"It was a sad day when it came down," added Smith. "I'm just really glad it's being put to use, instead of putting it in somebody's fireplace."

Once the slabs of wood from Smith's tree are transported to San Diego Urban Timber, the owners, Dan Herbst Jessica Van Arsdale will create what they call "forever furniture."

"These trees deserve a second life after they're cut down rather than being mulched or turned into firewood," said Herbst. 

Once all the wood has been milled, it's placed outside of their workshop for at least a year to air dry naturally.

It will then be placed in a kiln, where the wood slabs bake for a few weeks to eliminate any remaining moisture and insects.

"It's between 2 and 3 years between the time a tree gets cut down and when it's a finished piece of furniture," explained Herbst.

The couple and their staff custom make furniture for local business and homes and have also made several of the outdoor benches at UC San Diego.

"For some people, it's their very first piece of real furniture," said Van Arsdale. "So we help them realize this tree can help them become something else in their lives. It's utilitarian art."

Van Arsdale and Herbst will also take the wood from the 17 trees taken down in Escondido on April 30 to create even more furniture.

"There's an interesting disconnect with our urban trees. What they eventually become is a liability for people, because they need to be taken out," said Van Arsdale. 

A mission to protect the environment is inherent to their business, where Herbst and Van Arsdale said they are solving a conservation issue. 

"When we mill a tree we save 75 percent of the carbon released so that it's actually sequestered into a piece of furniture," said Herbst. 

San Diego Urban Timber co-owners are showing by example, that trees are a valuable resource which can be recycled in mindful ways.

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