City crews will start cutting down 196 East Side ash trees

An ash tree in the city’s Highland Park neighborhood that was pulled down by St. Paul’s Forestry Department is one of the over 5,000 the city cut down to curb the spread of the non-native emerald ash borer. (submitted photo)

St. Paul forestry crews are shown pulling down an ash tree on the East Side. (submitted photo)

Efforts to curb spread of emerald ash borers ongoing

As part of an effort to curb the spread of the emerald ash borers, invasive Asian beetles that destroy ash trees, the St. Paul Forestry Department will cut down an estimated 196 ash trees along public right-of-ways and parkways on the East Side, according to Brad Meyer, spokesperson for St. Paul Parks and Recreation.

Removals should begin the week of Jan. 19 and will take place along numerous streets on the East Side in Districts 1 and 2, including Birmingham Street, Ivy Avenue, Montana Avenue, Hoyt Avenue, Case Avenue, Conway Street, East Third Street and more.

Rachel Coyle, urban forester with the city’s forestry department, said since efforts began in 2009 to block the spread of emerald ash borers, the city has removed 5,130 public trees thus far, at a rate of 1,100 per year.

“We’ve done a lot of removals on the East Side,” Coyle said. “The East Side has a lot of older trees.”

Whenever they’re able, the forestry department replaces the trees with new plantings, Coyle said.

Not infested

Coyle said that the trees being removed are not infested with the insects, to the best of their knowledge. Rather, they’re cutting the trees down as a preventative measure.

The closest infested area the city has identified is, however, not far from the East Side -- in January 2013 workers found the beetles near the Pig’s Eye Wood Recycling Center.

Most of ash trees removed by the city aren’t thought to be infected with borers, she said.

Coyle said that on city boulevards and in neighborhood parks, ash trees make up between 15 and 20 percent of the tree population. This might also serve as a rough estimate for the tree population in the city in general, she said.

Winter is the best time

The city’s forestry department typically removes the trees in winter, as there is no possibility of the insects spreading during this time. They aren’t active until May, when the larvae complete pupation and start emerging from ash trees, Coyle said.

Once an ash tree is cut down, it’s taken to the Pig’s Eye Wood Recycling Center, processed, and then brought to the St. Paul Cogeneration Biomass Plant and used to generate power for a large portion of downtown St. Paul.

At the current pace, it’s estimated that the city will still have over a decade worth of ash removal left on its plate, if removals continue at the same pace.

Meyer noted that the city is using multiple methods, including placement of stingless wasps that are natural predators of emerald ash borers, tree treatment and tree removal, to stop the spread of the invasive insects.

Betsy Leach, director of the District 1 Community Council, noted that ash tree management isn’t solely the city’s responsibility. “It doesn’t do a whole lot of good for the city to try to stop this rapid spread” if people aren’t taking care of trees in their own yard, she said.

The council is hoping a forester will be able to talk to residents about the issue, to help them learn to identify ash trees and to teach them about dealing with ash trees in their own yard.

Contact Patrick Larkin at 651-748-7816 or at, or follow on Twitter at @ESRPatrickLark.

submitted graphic
A map of the East Side shows where St. Paul’s Forestry Department will remove ash trees this winter.

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100% of the boulevard trees on Lacrosse Avenue and Case Avenue, between Hazel St. & White Bear Ave., have been marked with a red band for removal this week.  There will be ZERO boulevard trees left on my block and on 3 blocks surrounding my home on Lacrosse.  ZERO branches from these healthy, mature trees fell during the recent 40-50 mph wind gusts.  My home was visited by ZERO emerald ash borers in 2013.  These are healthy mature trees -- a valuable and irreplaceable asset to a desirable, mature neighborhood. 
I am old enough to remember the extreme removal of elm trees that took place 50 years ago on East 7th Street between Hazel St. and Johnson Parkway.  I believe it was revealed later that the trees were removed primarily to support private tree removal businesses.  It had a devastating impact on our neighborhood.  Mature trees serve as a valuable backdrop to desirable and mature communities -- not to mention their protection from extreme heat, wind & water events.
I remember the significant decline in community morale that took place after our beautiful canopy was removed.  I think you will agree that the neighborhood has not fared well since that time so long ago; and it is imperative we prevent further decline/deterioration.
Six days ago, I wrote to the City Forestry Department imploring them to re-evaluate the current extreme 'structured removal plan' for my neighborhood. They replied promptly stating they would "  pass this information on to the appropriate people".  I sincerely hope someone will hear my plea for responsible action.
It doesn't make sense to me that, in the name of 'prevention', 100% of our boulevard trees should be sacrificed -- especially since we are 8.9 miles away from Pig's Eye wood recycling facility (the closest infected site).  The best analogy I can think of to capture the situation is this: If a person has a bad tooth, would you require someone who lives 9 miles away to go to the dentist and have ALL their teeth pulled?  What lasting impact would this drastic measure have on the person in the dentist chair?

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