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Council formalizes tree removal plan

Superior’s landscape is going to change over the next seven years as city crews systematically remove ash trees in public rights of way.

And now the city has an official plan that outlines the process.

Mary Morgan, director of parks, recreation and forestry, said while the council adopted a strategy to remove about 3,000 city ash trees last October, the plan adopted by the council Tuesday night has some added features, such as a communication strategy. Under the plan, the Parks and Recreation department will encourage private property owners to monitor, treat or remove ash trees on their property, although the city will not require action unless a tree becomes a hazard to the public.

Under the plan, the city will still remove city park, street and ash trees at the Nemadji Golf Course over the next seven years.

Morgan said crews that have worked to remove trees through the winter have actually put the city a little ahead of schedule. Work is expected to wrap later this month, to remove the last 67 of 304 ash trees in Superior’s North End before work begins in Zone 3 of the city between Catlin and Butler avenues and Belknap and North 28th streets. There the city will be cutting down 711 trees, Morgan said.

The plan will remove all city ash trees, irrespective of health after emerald ash borer was discovered in Superior last summer. The metallic-green beetle native to China has killed millions of ash trees in 20 states and Canada since its discovery near Detroit, Mich., in 2002. Beetle larvae tunnel under the trunks of ash trees, destroying the vascular system that carries water and nutrients to the canopy of true ash trees. It does not affect mountain ash.

About 1,400 trees of different species will be planted by 2020, when the city expects to take down the last of the public ash trees.

The mortality rate for ash trees is typically 100 percent 12 years after the introduction of the beetle in the area. A sharp increase in tree mortality begins around year nine after the introduction.

Superior’s introduction to the beetle is believed to have happened about five years before they were discovered based on damage to a tree taken in the area of North 17th Street and John Avenue.

Confirmation came in August after park staff stripped bark from an ash tree taken down in the 600 block of Grand Avenue and reported suspicions to the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. An entomologist confirmed a recovered beetle was emerald ash borer.

Morgan said the city is looking at a biological solution — a stingless wasp — to control the problem in the Superior Municipal Forest, an option that is not likely to save street treas

Under the plan, the city chips ash wood onsite and keeps it in a marshalling area; however the city has entered in the an agreement to sell the ash wood chips to Minnesota Power Hibbard SE Station in West Duluth, but the chips can only be moved between Oct. 31 and March 31 under federally issued compliance agreements.

The formal plan still includes an option that allows residents to save the trees near their homes by treating them. So far, Morgan said, about a dozen citizens citywide have stepped forward to treat 17 streets trees. Citizens do need to apply for a free permit to ensure the city is aware the tree is being treated.

For information about treatment permits, or to find out about programs that allow citizens to plant boulevard trees, call the Parks and Recreation Department at 715-395-7270.