Maple tree removal (copy)

One of the maple trees at Soldiers Field Veterans Memorial was marked for removal is September. (Ken Klotzbach/

Answer Man: I read about the proposed plan to help preserve Rochester’s tree canopy as development continues to sprout up faster than new seedlings.

I couldn’t help but compare that to the recent removal of maple trees at the Soldiers Field Veterans Memorial. I’ve been told the city was a partner is removing those beautiful trees.

What gives? — Proud Tree Hugger

Dear Hugger: While it might seem at odds with the city’s long-term goal, replacing the maples with more diverse plantings is expected to help expand the city’s tree canopy, which refers to the number of trees that shade the ground.

Rochester City Forester Jeff Haberman has noted that reliance on a single species can be detrimental to tree preservation goals if a disease or insect strikes. Think of dutch elm disease in the past or the city’s current budget-draining battle with the emerald ash borer.

While the maples weren’t stricken by disease or pests, they also weren’t in the best condition.

“Those trees were going to trash on us,” Lon Hebl, president of the Soldiers Field Veterans Memorial Committee, recently told the city’s Park Board.

Haberman said the trees were dying due to how they were planted.

“Twenty years ago, we didn’t know how to plant trees correctly, so they were planted too deep,” he said.

Additionally, he said the conditions resulted in signs of decay and sun scalding in several of the trees.

To help overcome the impending demise of the maple trees, Haberman and park staff worked with the memorial committee to obtain help from the organization Saluting Branches. The national group works to ensure the health of trees in veteran cemeteries.

“It was your staff that took the initiative and we were happy to ride along,” Hebl said, noting the effort helped the committee save money on the project, which will add five new tree varieties to the area this month.

Granted, the immediate result of removing the troubled trees reduces the city’s already-lacking canopy, but hope comes with plans for professionally planted trees that will grow to shade future generations, as well as a few more varieties for you to hug while visiting the memorial.

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