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City to remove up to 500 trees

City to remove up to 500 trees
Charlie Melby, working for Rochester Park and Recreation, loads a chipper Friday morning with branches cut from boulevard trees along the 900 block of Seventh Avenue Northeast.

A large elm tree along Seventh Street Northeast near Silver Lake Park is one of the casualties in a city tree-removal project.

By mid-morning eight days ago, the tree that once towered over the corner of Seventh Street and East Silver Lake Drive was in pieces on the street.

Park and Recreation crews began removing dead, dying and diseased trees earlier this year and will continue throughout the winter, said City Forester Jacob Ryg. Between 450 and 500 trees will be taken down.

"It's a lot," Ryg said, adding that drought conditions this year are causing more trees to decline or die. "Those are in the parks as well — not just boulevards. It's a huge expense for our city."

He didn't have an exact dollar amount for the tree-removal project, but he said it will be in the tens of thousands of dollars for stump removals alone. It costs a minimum of $350 to take down a single tree and grind the stump, he said.


Disease is one reason for the removals and a condition called "stem girdling roots" is another. It happens when trees are planted improperly, and the ones in Rochester are 30 to 40 years old.

"They plant them too deep, typically … and what happens is the roots actually come up toward the soil surface and encircle the tree. And as they grow older, those roots get larger, the tree gets larger and they meet, and it actually strangles the tree," he said.

Mature trees that were planted too deeply look like utility poles rather than having "a nice flare at the bottom," Ryg said. "That's when nature or seeds plant them properly. … Those first lateral roots should be right at the soil's surface."

Ryg urges people to get a planting permit from the city before planting a tree in a boulevard space. Along with the permit comes information about how to plant trees correctly.

"So you don't put the tree in the wrong place or you don't end up planting something like buckthorn or a Norway maple or something that's not really appropriate for the boulevard space. That will also contribute to it having to be removed at an early age," Ryg said.

When it comes to the loss of trees in Rochester, unfortunately, the city is just seeing the tip of the iceberg, Ryg said.

"This is just a precursor for emerald ash borer. When that arrives, we could lose 8,000 or more boulevard ash trees, and then 20,000 or more park trees. I recommend people start planting trees now, because we're going to just keep losing more and more," he said.

The emerald ash borer, a green beetle from Asia, has devastated ash tree populations in several eastern and Midwestern states and was recently found in Great River Bluffs State Park, about 75 miles east of Rochester.


"I'm telling people it's more than likely here, we just haven't found it yet. For tree lovers, it's pretty heartbreaking," Ryg said.

In some cases, Ryg is offering to have the city take down a homeowner's ash trees that are in very poor condition, as long as they agree to plant new trees in their place.

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