In the latest effort to stop the emerald ash borer, Cottage Grove is testing a software program that assesses the value of city-owned ash trees to help officials determine whether to save them or cut them down.

The i-Tree software, which was developed by the U.S. Forest Service, allows parks officials to determine the value of the city's trees to underscore the importance of funding a program to deal with ash trees and the emerald ash borer, said city forester Steve Bowe.

The council recently cut nearly 40 percent of the management program's $162,000 annual budget, Bowe said, but has hinted it would restore funding in the near future.

"In order to do that, I needed to give some validity to why our forest is important," he said. "That was my main drive: to make sure that the management program enlisted four years ago was carried forward."

Bowe says he has spent the past few months plugging tree data into the software, which "spits out a slew of information" on a tree's value — based on such factors as its size, condition and location. After crunching the numbers, Bowe determined that "our forest gives the city $1.8 million annually in benefit."

Armed with this information, he said, the Parks Department will be able to make better decisions about which trees to cut down and best practices in fighting the ash borer, a beetle that attacks trees and lawns.

Marine on St. Croix

Volunteers needed to plant trees at camp

Individuals and service groups are asked to sign up by April 9 to assist with planting trees and shrubs on April 26 and 27, beginning at 10 a.m. at Veterans Campground on Big Marine Lake. Hundreds of trees will be provided by the state Department of Natural Resources as part of an Arbor Day weekend event at the camp.

Veterans Campground is a nonprofit camp that assists veterans and their families with rest, recreation and recovery from military duty. It is situated at 11300 180th St. N., Marine on St. Croix. Contact Lori at 651-492-7277 to sign up.

Oak Park Heights

Road projects begin, new detours appear

Reconstruction of Hwy. 36 and its frontage roads and intersections through Oak Park Heights will begin this week, weather permitting, the Minnesota Department of Transportation said.

• The south frontage road will close to through traffic between Osgood Avenue and Club Tara. Access to businesses and nearby housing will remain available, but most traffic will be detoured, MnDOT said.

• Hwy. 36 will become single-lane in each direction from Washington Avenue/Norell Avenue to Hwy. 95.

• Osgood traffic will use the west side of the road while crews reconstruct the east side of the road north of Hwy. 36.

• Crews will clear trees and shrubs at the Oakgreen Avenue/Greeley Street intersection and on Hwy. 95 north of Hwy. 36. This work starts in early April.

Detailed information about each of these construction activities, including the type of work and anticipated timeline, can be found at

Washington County

Wireless networks installed at libraries

A joint effort between South Washington County School District 833 and Washington County provides Wi-Fi "hot spots" for students at the Park Grove and R.H. Stafford libraries.

At the beginning of this school year, as part of the school district's Transforming Thinking through Technology (T3) initiative, students from five district schools were equipped with iPads funded in part by a federal grant. As teachers integrate more online learning models into their curricula using a variety of apps, cloud storage and online resources, students will complete and submit their homework online via their tablets.

To support families who do not have wireless networks at home, District 833 installed networks at both the Park Grove Library in Cottage Grove and at the R.H. Stafford Library in Woodbury. Because these are school district networks, students are automatically logged into the network on their school-issued iPads as they walk into either library.

This partnership between District 833 and Washington County provides an after-school venue for students to complete their tablet-based assignments in the evening and on weekends when county libraries are open.

Lake Elmo

Bank, library offer new TumbleBooks

Lake Elmo Bank and the Friends of Lake Elmo Library have teamed up to support the new TumbleBooks eBook program for children and teens.

"TumbleBooks has story­books, chapter books, fiction, nonfiction and graphic novels," said Karen Johnston, president of the Friends. "The site also has puzzles and games, videos and language learning, and everything is sorted for different age groups and reading levels. The story is read aloud to the child, with pages turned automatically, or the audio can be turned off and the speed controlled if the child wants to read it without help or if a parent wants to read to the child. The site works on computers, tablets and similar devices."

TumbleBooks may be accessed from the Lake Elmo Public Library website at


Tougher rules mulled for blighted properties

Soon, owners of distressed properties could face harsher penalties.

The city is considering tweaking an existing ordinance to tackle what some residents are calling a growing problem: unsightly properties that mar city streets.

Homeowners who are cited under the current ordinance — living in homes that are in a "dilapidated condition or kept in a manner that is a menace to the health of neighbors" — are issued a warning or misdemeanor charge; some complained that this is a slap on the wrist that is rarely enforced. If the ordinance is changed, violators would be issued a warning and, in some cases, would have to pay a fee. Subsequent violations would incur possible jail time and fines, city officials said.

Libor Jany, Kevin Giles