Downed Trees at new high school site
Nearly 1,000 pecan trees at the future site of Maricopa's second high school will be removed and repurposed, saving the district hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to superintendent Dr. Tracey Lopeman. Photo by Jay Taylor

There is good news for those concerned about the fate of nearly 1,000 pecan trees that populated the site of Maricopa’s new high school. The trees felled for the construction project will be recycled.

According to the Maricopa Unified School District, “100% of the trees will be recycled, with zero waste and no impact on the construction budget.”

In a nod to the site’s agricultural heritage, the district has preserved a row of about 30 pecan trees along the northern border of the campus.

MUSD superintendent Dr. Tracey Lopeman gave credit to the Chasse Building Team, the primary construction contractor on the project, for finding innovative ways to repurpose the trees from the 80-acre site while staying within an already tight budget.

“Our construction partners have maximized every dollar to ensure our second high school is delivered on time and within budget, consistent with the Governing Board’s philosophy and expectation,” Lopeman said.

The district said the trunks and large limbs of the pecan trees will be processed for commercial and non-commercial food smokers for use in restaurants or homes. The remaining branches and root balls will be finely ground and compressed into wood pellets and sold as a fuel source for heating in colder climates or outdoor cooking.

Projects that involve clearing agricultural trees often result in significant waste, the district said. Pecan trees processed for lumber can result in 80%-90% waste which ends up in landfills, adding significant disposal costs to construction projects. But MUSD’s approach applied more innovative but still cost-effective strategies.

“This outside-the-box strategy saved the district hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the trees will be recycled with zero waste,” Lopeman said. “It is a win-win strategy that demonstrates fiscal management and responsible usage of natural resources.”

Transplanting the trees were not a viable option given the risk and cost, according to Tim Goyette, Chasse project manager.

“They could have (been transplanted) but the survival rate on large trees is very low,” he said. “And it would have cost millions of dollars.”

Pecan Trees Cortana site
A long row of mature pecan trees on the property at North Murphy and West Farrell roads will recall the agricultural heritage of the site. Photo by Jay Taylor