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Drought, hard winter suspected in death of Industrial Park trees

A number of young trees planted along Spiral Boulevard during the 2009 Industrial Park improvement project are dead, possibly because of harsh seasons over the past couple years. Star Gazette photo by Katrina Styx

It’s been five years since the City of Hastings redesigned Spiral Boulevard in the Industrial Park. The project included drainage ditches designed to catch water runoff that were planted with native grasses and a variety of trees.

This spring, city employees noticed a problem. Of the 275 trees planted in the project, somewhere around 30 of them had died, said Public Works Director Tom Montgomery. The trees were young, he said, and although it seemed some were struggling, most had seemed to be doing well in previous years.

The city planted a variety of deciduous and coniferous trees in 2009, including swamp white oak, eastern pine, Ponderosa pine, locust and others. It doesn’t appear that any one variety was affected more than the others.

City staff aren’t sure what, exactly, led to the trees’ death. One possible cause is weather. In 2012, there was a bad dry spell, Montgomery said, and last winter was also tough. He said he’s not sure if the trees might not have been mature enough to handle the serious weather.

The city paid $55,000 for all 275 trees in the project area. The trees did come with a warranty, but it was a one-year warranty that expired in 2010. That means that replacing the dead trees will come out of the city’s pocket.

Hastings’ Public Works Department doesn’t currently have any available funds to replace the trees, but Montgomery said there will be a request for funds in the 2015 budget specifically to replace boulevard trees, not just in the Industrial Park but elsewhere in the city as well. Right now, he said his department is only looking to replace young trees.

When it comes time to replant the Industrial Park trees, Montgomery said the city won’t simply plant the same species. The soil in the area is sandy, he said, and drains quickly. He said the plan is to find trees that will be more drought resistant.