Article written by Sonja Mason and was originally published in the Summit Hill Association newsletter
Have you noticed the green “Emerald Ash Borer Kills” ribbons on trees up and down Grand and Summit? Those bands are part of an outreach effort to raise awareness about the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB), to help residents to recognize ash trees, and encourage residents to visit the City’s website to learn about EAB (www.stpaul.gov/eab). The good news is that the banded trees along Grand and Summit currently are not visibly infested and won’t come down soon; in fact there are no ash removals scheduled in all of District 16 for 2017. The sad news, however, is that 18% of the boulevard trees in Summit Hill are ash trees, and all will have to be removed eventually.
What is the City doing to combat EAB?
The City launched an EAB management program in 2010, which began with the “structured removal” of declining and/or damaged trees, as well as the strategic use of insecticide on ash trees that meet forestry criteria for treatment. The ribbon approach we’re now seeing coincides with a switch in the focus of the City’s management program from removing declining and/or damaged trees to removal of EAB infested trees. City officials say the infested area now covers more than 97 percent of St Paul. The Forestry department’s management efforts have succeeded in slowing the population growth of EAB, allowing more time to manage the urban tree canopy. The overall focus of the EAB plan and the Forestry department is to keep our urban forest ––which covers 32.5% of the total land area of St Paul––healthy, diverse, and green.
What can I do to help?
City Foresters suggest that residents should focus on diversifying tree species on private property, shying away from maples, which are over-planted—around 40% of boulevard trees in Summit Hill are maples. Maple trees are also more susceptible than other tree species to yet another invasive species, the Asian Long Horned Beetle. (ALB is not in Minnesota, but our state is classified as a “suitable habitat” for the pest by the USDA.) Under-planted species include Kentucky coffeetree, serviceberry, tamarack, or other conifer/evergreen trees that aren’t suitable for City boulevards. City Forestry provided a link to University of Minnesota Extension planting recommendations, it’s included below.
What if I have an ash tree in my yard?
The City Forestry Department’s management plan only covers “street trees” on the boulevards and in parks and other city property. If you have an ash tree on your property, you should contact a licensed tree care company. Some high value trees can be treated with insecticide, but please know that this treatment will have to be repeated every 2-3 years. Most ash trees will have to be removed and replaced. Homeowners can also have boulevard trees treated at their own expense, with a permit. According to a 2013 article in the Star Tribune, it can cost around $250 for treatment, and between $700-$1000 to remove an ash tree.
When I was a kid, there were wide canopies of elm trees throughout my neighborhood and all of St Paul. I remember seeing the burnt umber bands painted around their wide gnarled trunks, and then the trucks coming to remove the gigantic trees. Summit lost dozens, if not hundreds; and I lost the tree right in front of my house, the one I could see from my bedroom window. The City eventually replaced it with a sapling, and by then I was old enough that I took interest in it. I read the instructions that had been hung on our front door explaining how to care for it. I dutifully dragged the hose out from around from the spigot on the side of house, and attached a longer length of hose to reach all the way to the sapling. I put the water on a slow trickle, as the instructions stated. I felt like it was my tree, and I wanted to help it grow. I don’t live in that house anymore, but the tree is still there. But not for too much longer — it is a Marshall Ash tree.
Special thanks to Rachel Coyle, an Urban Forester working for the City of St Paul, for answering our many questions.
Melo, Frederick. Pioneer Press. "Curious about green bands on St. Paul trees? It’s not good news” [26 Jan 2017]
Blake, Laurie. Star Tribune. “Emerald ash borer treatments costing less, working better” [10 Dec 2013]
City of St Paul website, Forestry’s Page on EAB
U of MN’s Extension, Recommended trees
City of St Paul website, Boulevard Tree Permit