Inver Grove Heights tackles potential tree troubles


This ash at Oakwood Park in Inver Grove Heights and other ash trees in parks and other city-owned areas will be removed before they are infested with emerald ash borers. (Submitted photo)

City plans to issue notices to residents with ash trees

At one point, the fear of a nationwide die-off of ash trees had the staff at Inver Grove Heights City Hall planning to remove all ashes growing on city property.

More recently, that plan has changed.

Civic leaders originally intended to remove the vulnerable trees before they were infested with the deadly emerald ash borer. But the city council adopted a new strategy at its July 14 meeting.

The revised plan calls for notifying private property owners of the dangers that a weakened ash tree can bring.

The city had planned to spend between $30,000 and $35,000 per year on tree removal, but the new plan should shave off about one-third of the cost.

Homeowners will be asked to let the city know their choice on what to do with ash trees in right-of-way areas. These notices are expected to hit the mail sometime in August, in conjunction with the best time for tree trimming and removal. An invitation to a public meeting will also be included.

Public trees goners

City crews will still be removing trees from public areas, such as parks and playground areas. But they won’t automatically cut down ash trees on city-owned boulevards in residential neighborhoods. Property owners will now have a say in the future of their boulevard ash trees.

“Our initial policy was to eradicate trees ... before the emerald ash borers came to town,” said Joe Lynch, Inver Grove Heights city administrator. “Recently, [Parks and Recreation director Eric Carlson] has learned that other cities have changed their stance on that. If they currently don’t have infestations in their cities, they have been either less proactive in the public area, or offering opportunities for residents to deal with the tree before there’s an epidemic.”

No infestation yet

Currently, there have been no sightings of emerald ash borers in Inver Grove Heights, but they have been found in nearby communities, and are still very much a threat.

If the predatory beetles do end up in Inver Grove Heights, more proactive approaches will be taken, as mandated by the state of Minnesota.

“If we get the disease in the city, yes, we will have to take down all of the trees,” Lynch said.

Back in 2004, the city implemented an emerald ash borer management plan. Part of that plan pinpointed the location of all the ash trees on public and right-of-way property.

Public meeting in the works

“The council asked us to send out a notice to everyone who has an ash tree in their front yard. We’re going to invite them to a public meeting, and let them know about what the emerald ash borer is, and what it’s going to do to the ash trees,” Carlson said. “For those who want their tree removed, we’ll remove it. For those who want to keep it until the borer hits, they can keep it.”

The emerald ash borer is a small green beetle that harms the ash tree during its larval stage. The larvae feed on the conductive tissue of the tree, blocking its access to both water and vital nutrients. This causes the tree to die over a span of a few years.

Some cities, such as Burnsville, have decided to largely shelve plans to cut down their ash trees and instead are going to preserve them with insecticide injections. Burnsville officials believe it will cost less to treat and save the mature shade trees, than to remove and replace them with other species.

Reach Tim Faklis at 651-748-7814, at tfaklis@lillienews.com, or on Twitter @tfaklisnews.

 

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