Anoka County cities remove ash trees ahead of emerald ash borer invasion

  • Article by: SHANNON PRATHER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 5, 2013 - 10:08 PM

Pre-emptive action aims for a gradual transition to new kinds of trees, but is hard for homeowners.


A St. Paul public works crew conducted a structured cutting down of boulevard ash trees near the intersection of Reaney Avenue and Van Dyke Street in 2011 to combat the spread of the emerald ash beetle. North-metro cities are dealing with the same issue this spring.

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Not everyone can have a maple.

That’s one of the realities for homeowners who have ash trees removed and replaced as Anoka County cities deal pre-emptively with the threat of an emerald ash borer invasion.

Cities are gradually cutting down ash trees on boulevards and parks and replacing them in order to prevent the borer from quickly denuding the landscape. To avert a threat from future pests, the replacements have to be a healthy mix of oaks, lindewoods, hackberries and maples. So ... not everyone can have a maple.

Several cities are starting their seasonal ash-tree removal and replacement efforts this month. Lino Lakes crews will cut down 300 parks and wetland trees. Blaine crews will chop down 75 boulevard trees and 100 parks trees.

No infestations have been discovered in Anoka County, but scientists have found emerald ash borers in northern Ramsey County, so it’s just a matter of time, Blaine and Lino Lakes officials say.

Most residents grasp the realities of preventive thinning to thwart the insect invasion. Where Blaine residents have been less understanding is when they learn they don’t get to pick their replacement tree after city crews remove an ash from their ­boulevard, said Blaine Parks Department supervisor and forester Marc Shippee.

Everyone wants a maple, Shippee said.

After seeing Dutch elm disease and now emerald ash borers scar streetscapes, cities can’t capitulate on this issue, Shippee said.

“One of the goals is to increase the diversity of the tree population in the future. When something comes through again, it will have much less of an impact if we get away from the monoculture of trees,” Shippee said.

Blaine residents who opt for a free replacement will receive one of a variety of trees including hackberries, elms, maples, lindenwoods or honey locusts. Still, about one-third of Blaine residents choose not to replace their boulevard tree, Shippee said.

Blaine has removed as many as 700 ash trees from boulevards and parks since the emerald ash borer became a threat.

With an estimated 3,000 to 5,000 ashes along boulevards and another 8,000 to 10,000 on city parkland, Blaine crews will slowly remove trees over the next decade. The city cuts down and replaces two or three ash trees along a city block or in a park area.

“Then we don’t go back for five years,” Shippee explained. “With Dutch Elm, neighborhoods were transformed overnight. All trees were removed and it looked like a bomb hit it. This way, we are slowly transitioning the street canopy over the next 10 to 15 years.”

In Lino Lakes, crews will be working in Country Lakes Park and South Reshanau Lakes Estates open space area. The 300 ash trees slated for removal are mostly wild, said Marty Asleson, Lino Lakes environmental coordinator.

“Some of these are wetland trees. They are poor form, leaning and twisting and have deficiencies. We would never treat them,” Asleson said.

According to a recent inventory, there are about 900 ash trees on city land and along boulevards.

Lino Lakes plans to treat certain high-value ash trees in parks and along boulevards to protect them.

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