Urban Forest Planning Update


There have been multiple planning conversations over the past few years regarding the state of our urban forest by our Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) and council. We continue to raise awareness in the community as to the impact of the imminent Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) infestation. Additionally, the publicly owned green spaces in Marine are continually evaluated for tree health, age, aesthetics, diversity, and public safety. EAB is already in our community and, if left unaddressed, will kill every single ash tree in town over the next few years.

On December 9th, 2022, four trees were removed from the north end of the Village Commons green space (north of the gazebo and near the retention pond and Änna's Bistro). These included two ash trees that were in decline and scheduled for removal in 2023, as well as a long-dead Scots pine, and a clump of boxelder in poor condition.

The two ash were part of the first phase of removal of the 12 trees initially included in a DNR grant which the City was successfully awarded due to our proactive planning. Since there was some funding for tree removal available in the remaining 2022 city budget, this was an opportunity to get a start on the work without tapping into the DNR grant – thereby creating more flexibility for the project. The DNR grant includes funding for ash removal and replacement planting. The grant does not cover EAB treatment. Proactive, phased removal and replacement is preferable to the reactive mode that would be required due to predicted near-term mass die-offs.  This approach will mitigate the aesthetic impact of the loss of ash in Marine’s central green spaces.

The FAC, partnering with residents, have identified and planned treatment of some ashes to ward off EAB on a case-by-case basis. We are partnering with Rainbow Tree Service to start treatment in 2023. The DNR grant will also fund removal of some right-of-way (ROW) ash.  These are defined as large ash trees within publicly owned roadways that may present a future fall threat due to EAB. Anyone interested in sponsoring, or “adopting,” treatment of a ROW ash should reach out to the FAC and/or council liaisons.  To be clear – protecting ash trees with an insecticide is a means of managing the planned phased transition; it is not a long-term strategy.  The trees are protected for two growing seasons, and then must be re-treated.  

Those that recall a similar phenomenon due to Dutch Elm Disease in the 1970s/80s will hopefully understand why we are acting now.

Environmental Design has offered to plant a large Dutch Elm Disease-resistant cultivar (“St. Croix” – a resistant American elm selected from a massive parent tree in Afton and developed by the University of Minnesota) in proximity to where the dead Scots pine was. This was offered in memorial to a local arborist (employee) who was killed in a traffic accident on SR 95 this past fall.  This company has a large tree spade and the elm will be a substantial specimen (immediate visual impact). Relatedly, the two end-of-life spruce from the south parcel of the Village Commons will be removed by Environmental Design in 2023, as they were planted in memoriam 40+ years ago and they recognize the trees are in bad shape. An additional declining ash in proximity (Y-shaped trunk still holding its leaves) will also be removed in 2023.  The remaining ash will be treated and re-evaluated in two future stages (2025 and 2027).

The FAC will expand its tree gravel bed program in 2023. Sixty-four tamarack are being grown in the existing bed and will be used to offset loss of black ash in Marine’s seep swamps.   A second bed will be planted with larger stock. These trees (16) will grow over the summer and be out-planted in the fall of 2023. The gravel beds will continue to produce trees each year for fall planting and will be used to mitigate the removal of ash trees in 2025 & 2027. This will also increase the diversity of species in Marine’s urban forest.

Our approach as a city to this issue has been deliberate in method and communication. While we have been robust in our messaging, we understand that it can always be improved. However, at some point action must be taken. We know that when trees go down emotions go up, but we are committed to following this phased and incremental planning process to keep our green spaces healthy and beautiful for generations.

To that end, we will be celebrating our fifth year next spring as an Arbor Day Tree City USA community. We have 450 white pine and 100 tamarack saplings coming. Some will be planted by the FAC or end up in the tree gravel bed, and many will be given away to residents. The FAC will also be soliciting volunteers to beautify the Village Commons in 2023, to include planting trees, native grasses, and wildflowers. There will also be opportunities to help assess Oakland cemetery’s treescape, mitigate buckthorn and improve the canopy floor in Burris Park, the School Forest, trails, and other areas.

If you are interested in joining the FAC in this effort, either as a member or as a casual volunteer, please contact council members Wendy Ward or Charlie Anderson.