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Council gives input on ash tree removal plans

While Woodbury officials are aware that emerald ash borer (EAB) has crept into the area, city council members are hesitant to start removing too many trees, too fast, just yet.

The EAB is a small, dark metallic green invasive beetle from Asia. It has caused the mortality of more than 30 million ash trees in North America, and was first found in Minnesota in 2009. Last fall, the EAB was confirmed as having spread into Washington County.

And if it's not already in Woodbury's ash trees, Woodbury Assistant Parks Director Mike Adams suspects it will be, soon.

"It's really knocking on Woodbury's door, if it's not already here," Adams told the Woodbury City Council during an April 20 workshop.

In an effort to curb the eventual spread of the EAB, the city of Woodbury has been gradually removing ash trees—a bit of a "preemptive" move, Adams said—if the trees show signs of illness, are storm damaged, and so on. Since 2011, he said, about 300 ash trees have been removed.

But looking ahead to the future, Adams cautions that the spread of the EAB may mean more of Woodbury's ash trees will need to be removed in the future. The ash population is particularly dense in some of the community's parks, and removal of those trees will make a difference in the appearance of those parks, he said.

To ease the transition, Adams suggested removing about 200 ash trees per year, and replacing those trees with trees of different species, until the ash tree population is gone from Woodbury. The proposal brought mixed reaction from the council.

While Councilmember Paul Rebholz said he is hesitant to endorse such an aggressive tree removal plan. Even though new trees would be planted, it takes time for those trees to mature, and that would affect the city's tree cover. On the other hand, he also understands that EAB could cause significant damage to the city's tree population.

"It's a huge issue," he said. "It could take over a lot of trees, but nobody knows when or where."

Mayor Mary Giuliani Stephens noted that replacing a significant number of trees on an annual basis would come with a cost, and should be worked into the city's budget. For now, she suggested it would be good for the city's parks department to continue removing ash trees on the as-needed basis, as it has been for the past couple of years.

There are about 200 ash trees that are scheduled for removal, due to ailing conditions, Adams said. The parks department will continue on its current plan to remove those trees until otherwise directed by the city council.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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