Save Our Shade in St. Clair Park

Save Our Shade in St. Clair Park

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Naomi Blinick started this petition to Office of Mayor Melvin Carter and

TL:DR version

In response to the City of St. Paul’s plan to remove all the ash trees at St. Clair Park in St. Paul’s West Seventh neighborhood to manage emerald ash borer, we propose and request a phased removal approach for the ash trees, prioritizing maintaining shade and other benefits of the established trees for as long as possible. Re-treat and prune a minimum of 2/3 of the ashes and start replanting as soon as possible with a minimum of four new tree species to increase resilience to future pests, pathogens, and climate impacts.   

The current situation (long version)

In the past, West 7th neighbors largely rolled with the punches when it came to tree removals, particularly for ash trees being removed to manage for emerald ash borer (EAB). We accepted what the City said and just did our best to adapt to shadeless streetscapes for the next 15-20 years. Unfortunately, one way we adapted our habits, especially for those with small children, was more frequent trips to St. Clair park, which has a richly shaded walkway from the street to the library/community center and a canopy that shades a playground, soccer mini-pitch, and tennis courts. 

Sharped-eyed residents noticed the tree tags indicating that the ash trees had been treated for EAB in 2014 and 2017, which gave us some solace. We thought that the City recognized the significance of these trees in this underserved area’s park. We thought they were proactively protecting the trees in order to lessen some of the harm of the EAB infestation which has been disproportionately felt in our District. We thought it was a small attempt to make up for planting our neighborhood park in a near-monoculture of one tree species. 

We were wrong. In late June we noticed every single ash in the park painted with a green stripe signifying their planned removal. In speaking with the City’s Forestry Department, we learned that treatment of the park’s ash trees was only performed to forestall their removal. We were told that removing them this year and eventually replanting new trees was a matter of cost. There was never a plan to save our park trees. The City plans to remove all 32 ash trees in the entire park during one operation, leaving the park with drastically less shade. 

We reject the assertion that removing and replacing the trees is the most cost-effective option when the benefits of large, established shade trees are immeasurable to our community. According to the National Tree Benefit Calculator, a 16-inch diameter ash tree in a parkland setting in our zip code provides $162 in annual benefits.The benefits include shade, energy savings, stormwater retention, and carbon capture. After losing nearly every boulevard tree on the blocks surrounding the park earlier this summer due to EAB, the loss of those benefits is being felt by our neighborhood.  

We reject the City’s cost comparisons of EAB treatment versus the cost of removal, even without factoring in the significant health and environmental benefits of mature, urban canopy trees. We have witnessed our neighbor’s boulevard trees being treated by an arborist: a 34” diameter tree took one person under 15 minutes to treat. The tools required were a bicycle pump, plastic tubing, and a cordless drill. We understand that the insecticide, emamectin benzoate, is costly, but even over a period of decades, it is significantly less than the resources needed to remove trees in the urban environment. 

The North Central Integrated Pest Management Center published updated cost analyses in 2019 saying that treatment costs are now substantially lower than removal costs. This makes sense given that treatment can be carried out by one person with tools that could fit into a compact car, while the entire process of removal requires multiple different, multi-person crews with heavy equipment over a period of 1-4 years. One crew is needed to mark the removal area with signage ahead of the removal action. On the day of removal, a large crew with a log loader, dump truck, chainsaw operators, wood chipper, and potentially an aerial lift or a Bobcat is needed to remove all the large, mature ashes. Then one to three years after removal, another crew must visit the removal site with heavy equipment to complete the stump grinding. Then after that, another crew returns for the planting. Significant, repeated watering will be required for many years to get the trees to thrive in our climate-impacted, urban environment. 

Full-scale removal is not less complicated than treatment, nor is it cheaper, nor is replacement a reliably effective or realistic option. Total removal is simply the least thoughtful option for “managing” EAB in St. Paul. 

We also reject the idea that newly planted trees will be a timely and comparable replacement to the mature canopy that has been and will be lost. A walk around our neighborhood plainly shows how many newly planted city trees are failing to thrive. With dramatic increases in temperature, severe storms, drought conditions, and tree diseases and pests, we must realize that we cannot replace established trees (which are much more capable of weathering challenging conditions) with saplings and expect them to ultimately deliver the same level of benefits. During the recent severe drought and heat wave (which will only increase in severity and frequency as the effects of the climate crisis intensify) we witnessed no city forestry crews working to meet critical watering needs of the parkland and boulevard trees in our area and we have little faith in our city to grow and maintain young trees once they are planted. 

We propose and request a phased removal approach, prioritizing maintaining shade and other benefits of the established ash trees at St. Clair park. Treat and prune 2/3 of the ashes and start replanting ASAP with a minimum of four new tree species to increase resilience to future pests.

EAB is treatable. Our established ash trees at St. Clair park are worth treating and they must be treated again this summer to maintain the City’s previous investment in treatments in 2014 and 2017. We recognize that some trees are evidencing some EAB damage and will need to be removed, as they may pose a safety hazard to park users. On the other hand, all the trees in the park have more than enough existing canopy to be sound candidates for treatment. We would like to see at least ⅔ of the ash trees receive treatment and pruning instead of being cut this year.  When those trees reach their retreatment date, we want the City to reassess the need for additional removals and, with community input, a review of the current status of the EAB population in the seven county metro area, and evaluation of success rate of new plantings by the City, determine the next steps for managing the ashes at St. Clair park. 

The 2011 canopy assessment found that while ash species represented 17% of the street trees in District 9, they represent well over half of the trees at St. Clair Park/Playground, one of the few parks in our neighborhood, 


Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) is a non-native, invasive boring beetle that severely damages and eventually kills ash trees. Native to Asia and Eastern Russia, this destructive insect arrived in the US in 2002 and was first found in St. Paul in 2009. Options for managing EAB include cutting down an infested tree, treating it with a systemic insecticide, or using biological control agents--several species parasitoid wasps in the case of EAB (these wasps pose no danger to humans). 

There are many approaches to managing EAB infestations in urban areas, but you wouldn't know it if you’re only hearing about EAB management from the City of St. Paul Forestry Department. The City’s plan is simply to cut every last ash tree--no nuance, no consideration of the disproportionate impact of full scale urban tree removal in different neighborhoods, no thought given to beetle population dynamics over the long term given a blend of treated trees and removed trees. It’s one of the most thoughtless and, in this era of escalating climate emergencies, reckless plans we have ever seen come from a St. Paul city government department.

For context, many other municipalities have actual management plans for managing EAB that account for social justice, the services provided by large, established trees, and are adaptive in the face of emerging treatment options. We believe that the residents (tax payers) of St. Paul deserve a true management plan for EAB, not the short-sighted, and likely regrettable, strategy we’ve been handed. At a time when Minnesota is dealing with the worst air quality in documented history, record-smashing heatwaves, and severe storms, the thought that the City is undertaking large-scale removal of mature, otherwise healthy trees that directly counter each of these impacts when we have treatment options available is stunningly unconscionable.  

City-commissioned assessments of canopy cover and other urban forest metrics from 2010 found that Planning District 9, which encompasses much of what we call the West 7th neighborhood and includes St. Clair Park, was in the bottom three districts of the entire city for the lowest canopy cover in the public right of way. With large scale ash removal on residential boulevards and the majority of the trees along West 7th removed two years ago or earlier with zero follow up actions (no stump grinding or replanting), residents of this area feel the impacts of this acutely. 

In terms of overall tree canopy, District 9 also is near the bottom, ranking 13th out of 17 districts. Residents already have fewer benefits of urban trees in terms of cooling effects, energy savings, stormwater capture, and quality of life than residents of wealthier neighborhoods such as Summit Hill or Macalester-Groveland. We are dismayed by the City’s blanket approach to ash “management” and the fact that the plan does not account for the disproportionate impacts of ash removal in less wealthy neighborhoods, nor for the impacts of the climate crisis. We expect a more nuanced and science-based approach, as well as one that uses city funds more responsibly. 






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