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Council supports boulevard tree maintenance recommendations to fight EAB

It will be the responsibility of the property owner to maintain the health of boulevard trees according to a city policy. Michelle Wirth / RiverTown Multimedia

The Hastings City Council voted at their May 1 meeting to support the recommendations from the Parks and Recreation Committee regarding boulevard tree maintenance.

Chris Jenkins, Parks and Recreation director, presented the recommendations to City Council.

Jenkins said that he was pleased with the questions the council had for him and what they asked him to clarify.

"It shows me they are tuned in and interested in this topic and understand it is a big topic; one that we will all have to work through together," Jenkins said.

The recommendations were discussed following a 2016 discovery of emerald ash borer in two Hastings locations. EAB feed on ash trees, bore into them and lay their eggs. Young EAB live inside the tree and feed on it causing injury. Once the EAB has matured, they exit the tree, but the damage to the tree is already done. Within two or three years the tree will die.

There are 500 mature ash trees in public parks that will be treated by city staff starting immediately. Another tree inventory indicated that 1,000 of the 4,500 boulevard trees within Hastings are ash trees.

The boulevard trees are located in a public right of way, but an ordinance stipulates that the property owner is responsible for the care and maintenance, including preventative maintenance.

If tree health issues are discovered, the property owner will be contacted with information and options. In cases where tree removal is necessary and proper maintenance has been conducted, the city will share in the cost of removal. The city would pay for 40 percent and the property owner would pay for 60 percent of the cost. There is no cost share for stump removal or replacement trees.

Part of the preventive tree maintenance to deter EAB would include trunk injection treatments. An insecticide would be inserted to the base of the tree. The insecticide would be "taken up" by the tree and delivered within about one or two weeks. The injection would protect the tree for two years. The city plans to work with tree service providers on treatment costs to "not exceed" rates for Hastings residents.

Now that Parks and Recreation has the support of City Council, Jenkins said that staff will provide information on the city website to begin a communication effort to engage residents as it relates to boulevard trees. There will be an ongoing public EAB and tree maintenance communication and education strategy. Staff will also work to secure agreements with contractors who perform EAB treatments.

Michelle Wirth

Michelle Wirth graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in 2013 with a degree in journalism and web design. She worked as a web content editor for a trade association before coming to the Hastings Star Gazette in 2016.

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