By Jessica Lee

Star Tribune

Minneapolis city officials are considering new steps to prevent trees from toppling during severe storms.

Members of the city’s Transportation and Public Works committee spent Tuesday morning reviewing  practices that could lead to tree collapses.

Trees that are large, next to recent sidewalk maintenance and construction, or on narrow boulevards are more likely to fall during severe wind storms, according to a study  reviewed on Tuesday. The study, partly commissioned by the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, followed a June 2013 storm that downed or damaged thousands of Minneapolis trees.

For the five-month examination, Gary Johnson, the lead investigator and professor at the University of Minnesota, and his team, observed the fallen trees’ characteristics, tested soil and reviewed city records to determine if there was nearby sidewalk repair or other work that might have severed roots.

Since the study’s release, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Department has created a new staff position, a forestry preservation coordinator, to help monitor underground excavation projects.

The public works department has increased its communication with entities like the park board’s forestry department in an effort to find less invasive excavation techniques to minimize the effect of sidewalk maintenance and construction.

Stakeholders are reviewing the city’s 2004 Urban Forest Policy report that outlines practices and policies related to protecting trees to determine if updates need to be made, said Mike Kennedy, with Minneapolis Public Works.

“Most of these solutions that are associated with this problem are not solutions that can happen tomorrow,” Johnson told the committee. “It’s planning.”

Committee members asked for another report on the increased collaboration and work of the Minneapolis Public Works and Park Board staff this summer.

“[This] gives us good ability to think differently about our practices and how they can affect tree strengths in the future,” City Council Member Elizabeth Glidden said.

Jessica Lee is a University of Minnesota student reporter on assignment for the Star Tribune.