Neighborhoods want help in insect fight

The Minneapolis Parks and Rec board is proposing a $1.2 million tax levy to beat the emerald ash borer.

by Nathaniel Rabuzzi

University of Minnesota neighborhoods are requesting infested trees be removed as part of a citywide effort to combat invasive insects.

Minneapolis officials are working to eradicate the emerald ash borer, which has plagued ash trees nationwide.

There’s no way to exterminate the insect from an area, said Ralph Sievert, director of forestry for the city of Minneapolis. The only permanent solution is to remove the infected trees.

“Emerald ash borer is not going to go away,” Sievert said.

The city’s Parks and Recreation board has proposed an annual $1.2 million levy to fund the restoration of diseased trees. After public comment periods, City Council will adopt the budget in December.

Sievert said if the city doesn’t remove and replant over 40,000 ash trees, the effects of the insect could last for decades.

A survey by the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board found Prospect Park, Marcy-Holmes, Cedar-Riverside and the University campus have a dense ash tree population.

John Erwin, park board president and University horticulture professor, said University neighborhoods could have new, healthy trees within a year if the plan is approved.

The program would diversify the city’s tree population by planting various species instead of lining boulevards with one kind.

“A block that was typically all one species now would be two or three types to one block,” Sievert said. 

The initiative will also work to replace trees destroyed by severe June storms, Erwin said.

“The first step is to fill in all the gaps [from the storm and the borer] before we cut, and then to cut down diseased trees,” Erwin said. 

Erwin said the request for increased funding is separate from Mayor R.T. Rybak’s recommendation of $200,000 for tree
replacement from the storm.

Individualized studies junior Bjorn Sorenson said he supports the city’s initiative.

Sorenson, vice president of the University’s Green Group, said neighborhood streets will improve with the project and the community will benefit.