In Lyndale, trees spark turf battle between city and parks

Following a summertime reconstruction of 35th and 36th streets, City Councilmember Dan Niziolek (10th Ward) said the Park Board isn’t paying for as many trees along 35th and 36th streets as they should. As a result, he said the streets’ residents will receive fewer amenities on the newly re-done streets.

Approximately 65 trees will be planted next spring along the $5 million project, which runs along 35th and 36th from Dupont Avenue to Bloomington Avenue South and Chicago Avenue.

Lisa Cerney, project engineer, said the city’s Public Works Department is paying for the trees as part of the reconstruction budget. That budget includes amenities that neighbors can choose — in this case, trees.

However, Niziolek asserts the Park Board should pay for the 65 trees, which cost approximately $17,000, or $260 per tree, said Cerney. That would allow neighbors to choose another amenity, such as extra striping, costing the same amount.

Niziolek aide Gay Noble said diseased trees on the streets had been removed over the years, leaving treeless gaps. Noble said filling those gaps should be the Park Board’s responsibility.

Noble said the Park Board hasn’t kept track of trees removed and has only replaced them when residents requested it. Noble said because of that, it’s not the city’s responsibility to pay for new trees.

Park Board Commissioner John Erwin said keeping track of missing trees is difficult. "The best way we know if a tree is missing, is if a property owner tells us," he said.

Erwin said sometimes people don’t report a missing tree because they don’t want a new one, and the Park Board respects that.

Erwin said although trees became the Park Board’s responsibility in 1998, he hopes Public Works will pay for the trees they budgeted for the project. He said by doing that, the Park Board can use their money to put more trees elsewhere. But Erwin said, if Public Works decides not to pay, the Park Board will foot the bill.

City taxpayers will pick up most of the cost of a repaving project, but residents of the streets also pay 8.5 percent directly through assessments.