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DNR urban wood playhouse on display at the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden

A children’s playhouse constructed almost entirely from urban lumber is on display at the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden. 

Originally constructed for the 2021 Iowa State Fair, the playhouse showcases seven different species common to urban areas, including white oak, elm, honeylocust, maple, hickory, eastern redcedar, and black walnut.

Russ and Rhonda Frerichs of Ames constructed the playhouse from urban lumber that was milled by Bear Creek Hardwoods in Earlham and Breezy Hill Sawmill in Boone. Generous donations from the Iowa Arborist Association, the Iowa Woodland Owners Association, Beisser Lumber Company, Bear Creek Hardwoods, Lockwood Flooring, and Iowa Home Crafters helped to complete the project.

This playhouse highlights the unique ways lumber milled from trees grown in urban areas can be used. Hours and admission rates to the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden can be found on their website at

“Urban trees provide many benefits while alive, including shading homes and blocking the wind,” said Gabriele Edwards, Urban Forestry Program Specialist with the Iowa DNR.  “When these trees eventually have to be removed, there is a growing trend to mill this wood into lumber rather than chipping it into mulch or chopping to use as firewood.”

Milling urban trees into lumber for Iowans to use for their wood building projects is a great way to make the most of this locally renewable resource. “Many of these trees have stood tall in neighborhoods for more than a half century,” explains Edwards.

Urban lumber, produced from local trees and processed by local sawmills, is available to purchase at Habitat for Humanity ReStores in Des Moines and Iowa City. Urban wood is not for structural use (dimensional lumber) in homes, since it has not been “graded” to meet home building standards.

Learn more about urban lumber and wood characteristics of common urban species, and find a directory of wood processors in Iowa on the DNR website at