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Christmas trees find new life on Lake Winnebago

Posted at 5:35 PM, Dec 29, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-29 18:35:30-05

NEENAH — As the Christmas season winds down and trees get taken down, many trees in Winnebago County get a new lease on life as a sort-of wintery traffic cone.

Jim Nobbe is chairman of the Plow and Bridge Committee for Payne's Point Hook and Spear Fishing Club. He says his club uses old Christmas trees collected by the City of Neenah to mark a safe path for cars to cross Lake Winnebago when the lake is frozen.

“We place a tree every tenth of a mile and we drill a hole in the ice," he said, "and we lean the tree toward the shore…so that way in very a bad storm…if they find the tree-line, they see which way it’s pointed, and they know that’s the way to shore.”

Nobbe says the trees are also used to warn drivers of unsafe conditions.

“When a tree is laying down. That means danger. When it’s laid down across a road, or by a crack, that means danger," he said.

Nobbe says that if drivers encounter a tree lying flat on the ice, they should look for another plowed route to take "...because that means something’s wrong there.”

Farther down the lake in Oshkosh, Otter Street Fishing Club also helps maintain the Lake Winnebago ice roads. Plow Chairman Don Herman says his trees aren't collected by the city, but come right from Oshkosh residents.

“We usually get around 200-to-300 trees…" he said.

"...[E]verybody knows that they take their Christmas tree to Merritt Street….people just drop them off.”

Herman says that the ice roads give old Christmas trees a new lease on life.

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