Philadelphia Parks and Recreation has its biggest excess of firewood and wood chips in decades because of storms such as Isaias, as well as COVID-19 shutdowns, and its organic recycling facility is open for pickup of both.

The chips are free in unlimited quantities at the Fairmount Park Organic Recycling Center, 3850 Ford Rd. Wood chips are a coarser product than the mulch the city also produces, and can be used for outdoor ground cover, composting, creating a footpath, leveling ground, or even use in a compostable toilet.

As for firewood, residents will have to cut their own at a cost of $15 for any size load. The wood is pre-selected so it’s suitable for fires. The city normally doesn’t open for firewood until October, but it needs to start now to get rid of the surplus, said Daniel Lawson, sustainability manager for Parks and Rec.

Piles of trees felled by storms and ready to be cut for firewood at Philadelphia's Fairmount Park Organic Recycling Center.
Philadelphia Parks and Recreation
Piles of trees felled by storms and ready to be cut for firewood at Philadelphia's Fairmount Park Organic Recycling Center.

During the stay-at-home order, Lawson said, picking up materials was by appointment only. Now that the city is in the “green” phase of reopening, residents can visit without an appointment. The center has put COVID-19 safety protocols in place, which include wearing a mask and parking in premarked loading stations to ensure social distancing. Visitors should bring their own shovel, and work one person at a time at the piles of wood products.

He said residents normally help thin supplies, especially of wood chips, in the spring. But the facility was closed this spring because of the coronavirus.

Then, a series of storms this summer felled more trees than normal.

As a result, Lawson said, the city has about 3,000 tons of wood chips, the most in decades.

“It’s a mountain of wood chips,” he said. “Normally it all moves out very smoothly. We’ve had buildups before, but I think it’s the biggest I’ve ever seen. If you have an open truck, we can have our loaders just come dump it right in the back.”

Residents still have to pay for mulch, which is more finely ground than chips, as well as compost. Costs per ton are: screened leaf compost, $50; single ground mulch, $30; double ground mulch, $55; herbivore manure, $35.