Parks update // Ash borer

Emerald ash borer discovery no surprise to Park Board forestry staff

The emerald ash borer is in the Twin Cities. The dime-sized bug that’s claimed more than 20 million ash trees since 2002 was spotted last month in St. Paul.

“I wasn’t surprised,” said Ralph Sievert, forestry director for the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board. “None of us were.”

There is no known way to eradicate the ash borer. The exotic beetle showed up in Michigan in 2002, probably carried there by wood-packing material from its native Asia. Since then, it’s spread its havoc to Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Maryland, Ontario and, recently, Wisconsin.

Minneapolis is home to about 210,000 ash trees. About 38,000 of those line our streets and boulevards, which means that were the ash borer to arrive here, its effects wouldn’t be small. The Park Board has been estimating a $152 million economic impact.

At this point, though, the St. Paul discovery won’t do much as far as preparations in Minneapolis go, Sievert said. That’s because the Park Board has been getting ready for the ash borer for several years. It hasn’t planted ash trees since 2005, and it barely prunes them anymore. The board also has lowered the threshold for when it’s appropriate to remove ash, meaning that a boulevard ash that’s been damaged by, for example, a car accident and that has little sentimental value is likely to be taken down.

Park Board commissioners are expected to begin discussing other actions at a meeting this month. At least one of them, Commissioner Scott Vreeland, said he’s afraid he’s already spotted an ash borer-affected tree in Minneapolis.

Sievert said the biggest thing to come from the St. Paul discovery is that it offers Park Board staff a true-life example of what to look for. That should help tree inspectors when they head out this month because, Sievert said, the symptoms of ash borer-struck trees — “D”-shaped holes — are surprisingly difficult to see.

So what can residents do? No. 1 is to not transport any firewood from outside the city. Second is to stay on the lookout for ash trees that are showing signs of the borer’s unique holes and that are getting extra attention from woodpeckers.

If you feel confident you’ve spotted the ash borer, call 651-201-6684 or e-mail Arrest.The.Pest@state.mn.us. For a checklist of symptoms, go to www.mda.state.mn.us/invasives/eab.

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Tree stump removal gets financial boost

In other tree news, arbor staff is good to go for a heavy amount of tree-stump catch-up work, as the Park Board approved allocating an additional $500,000 for removals in 2009. It’s expected that by the end of the year, no boulevard stumps older than 2008 will remain in the city.

There currently are more than 4,000 stumps waiting to be grinded, Forestry Director Ralph Sievert said.

“It’s probably one of our biggest complaints,” he said.

Before the $500,000 allocation, the board had set aside just $300,000 for stump removals this year. That would have only covered work through the end of June — or about 23 neighborhoods’ worth of stumps. With the additional money, every neighborhood should see relief, Sievert said.

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Parks seek extra seat on Estimate and Taxation Board

The Park Board doesn’t want the Board of Estimate and Taxation to be eliminated, but it does want a change: They’re asking the Charter Commission to consider adding an extra seat to be filled by a second parks representative.

The taxation board used to have seven members — two publicly elected officials, the mayor, two City Council members, a Park Board commissioner and a Library Board member. But since the city’s library system merged with Hennepin County’s, the board has been down to six members. Because the mayor and the council members make up half of that, the Park Board is arguing that the balance has become unfairly shifted toward the city’s viewpoints. They want an additional parks seat.