A majestic bur oak tree that rises above the Eleanor Graham Community Garden at Hamline Avenue and Ayd Mill Road will get needed treatment for oak blight. The Union Park District Council (UPDC) voted on March 3 to make the $1,805 expenditure.

The afflicted tree is one of two bur oaks in the garden. (The bur oak closest to the bridge over Ayd Mill Road remains healthy.) However, it is not just any tree. It is one of 37 “landmark trees” in Saint Paul, according to Patrick Hamilton, a member of the Eleanor Graham Garden’s leadership committee.

The bur oak’s exact age is not known, but it could be more than 240 years old. City records indicate that it is 60 feet tall, has a 52-inch diameter at breast height and a canopy of leaves that is 70 feet wide.

Local residents first noticed the oak blight last fall, according to Patrick Bullard, another member of the garden’s leadership committee. The tree was shedding leaves earlier than usual, and the leaves had been turning brown in a manner that indicated it was diseased.

At the garden group’s request, a Saint Paul city forester inspected the tree and diagnosed oak blight, a condition that was confirmed by the University of Minnesota’s Plant Disease Clinic. Oak blight is caused by a fungus, and if left untreated can kill a tree. This particular tree’s disease is believed to be manageable, but treatment will have to be done by early May, according to the garden committee.

The gardeners said they understood the city’s unwillingness to pay for tree treatment, given the financial demands of its ongoing battle with the emerald ash borer infestation. Darlinda Coe, another member of the garden leadership team, said the committee would raise the money needed for future tree treatments. “We’re committed to this tree,” she said.

The committee has worked with a tree care company to develop a regimen for treating both bur oaks this spring. City permits for treatment have already been obtained. The oak trees are on land owned by the city’s Department of Public Works. The city leases the property to the UPDC for the garden, and it will not pay for the treatment.

 

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The gardeners said they understood the city’s unwillingness to pay for tree treatment, given the financial demands of its ongoing battle with the emerald ash borer infestation. Darlinda Coe, another member of the garden leadership team, said the committee would raise the money needed for future tree treatments. “We’re committed to this tree,” she said.

The $1,805 for the tree treatment comes from the Snelling-Hamline Community Council legacy fund, which was established when the UPDC was formed more than a decade ago through the merger of the Merriam Park and Snelling-Hamline community councils. (The Lexington-Hamline neighborhood, though part the UPDC, retained its own community council.) About $10,000 is in the Snelling-Hamline account, which is earmarked for projects in the Snelling-Hamline neighborhood.

— Jane McClure

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