Green rings painted on boulevard tree trunks indicates that another round of ash tree removal is underway in Saint Paul. As of mid-January crews had removed 119 out of nearly 2,504 trees that are scheduled to come down this year.

Many of the marked trees are in the West End neighborhood. At its January meeting, the West Seventh/Fort Road Federation discussed ways to encourage residents to save their ash trees. Federation board member Meg Duhr said the impact of losing so many trees must be considered, especially in terms of the loss of shade and the future increase in home energy bills. 

“People may not be aware of options to save their trees and the potential costs,” she said.

ash trees
The city’s removal of boulevard ash trees will continue in 2023-2024. The stumps are currently being ground out the same year that the trees are removed, with replacement trees to be planted by the following spring. The city hopes to have its structured tree removal finished by 2026. Photo by Brad Stauffer

To treat or not to treat

The district council’s Community Engagement Committee met on January 19 to discuss efforts to save boulevard trees, even trees marked with green rings. District council members are trying to see if residents can voluntarily pay for continued treatment of boulevard trees if those trees have previously been in the city’s tree treatment program.

Clare Cloyd, public service manager for the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation, said the city has an online permit at tinyurl.com/58vjnk6f that includes the option to apply to treat boulevard trees. However, she said all approvals are made by city foresters. Generally, marked trees that have not been previously treated are no longer candidates to begin doing so. “We’d also stress that treatment for those that are approved does not guarantee the tree will live,” she said.

Structured removal sometimes takes out whole blocks of infested boulevard ash trees in the city at the same time. Saint Paul’s management plan assumes that once trees are removed, the stumps will later be treated and removed. Then a variety of replacement trees will be planted.

“No parking” signs will go up several days prior to tree removal. Trees can be infested for three to five years before they begin to show signs of infestation. When the trees die off, their branches become brittle and start falling.

 

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Generally, marked trees that have not been previously treated are no longer candidates to begin doing so. “We’d also stress that treatment for those that are approved does not guarantee the tree will live,” said Clare Cloyd of Parks and Recreation.

Where they’re coming down

The West End is losing trees on streets including Tuscarora, Watson, View, Osceola, Toronto, Eleanor, Goodhue, Leech, Bay and Goodrich. Next year the neighborhood will lose large swaths of trees along Shepard Road near the High Bridge and Upper Landing, and into downtown.

Ramsey Hill will also hear the chainsaws, with a lot of tree removals this year slated in an area bounded by Western, Portland, Dale and Selby. Summit Avenue will lose more than two dozen trees between Farrington Street and the Hill House.

Summit Hill also has several blocks with trees marked for removal, including ones on Grand, Lincoln, Goodrich and Fairmount.

Macalester-Groveland will lose trees on a stretch of Goodrich between Cretin and Cleveland, and four blocks of Macalester Street north of Randolph.

Highland residents on Bohland Place east of the golf course are set to also lose several trees. Merriam Park has trees marked for removal on Iglehart between Fairview and Wheeler.

Grinding to a halt

Another 1,511 boulevard ash trees are scheduled for structured removal in 2024. By the end of last year, around 22,280 ash trees had been removed from the city right-of-way.

Ash stumps are currently being ground out the same year that trees are removed, Cloyd said. The city has caught up on stump grinding through structured removal, and is working to catch up on a backlog of non-ash tree stumps.

Some trees will be replaced this fall, with more replaced in spring 2024. The goal is to wrap up the management plan tree removal and stump grinding by 2026, with tree replacement extending into 2027.

Homeowners cannot obtain permits to do the stump grinding themselves. They can apply to purchase replacement boulevard trees, but have to work with city staff to plant them.

History of the borer battle

Emerald ash borer was first found in Saint Paul in 2009 and in Minneapolis in 2010, and has since spread to every county in the Twin Cities metropolitan area. It also can now be found in many counties around the state. Southeastern Minnesota has been especially hit hard.

The larvae of the insect bore beneath an ash tree’s bark and feed on its circulatory system. Forestry staff for years used a combination of tree treatment and removal to save trees, but have moved the focus on tree removal and replacement for the past several years.

Property owners are responsible for the removal of infested ash trees on private property.

For a map of boulevard ash trees slated for structured removal in 2023 and 2024, see tinyurl.com/ywpyc83h.

— Jane McClure

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