Church leaders, residents rally around 'Replant Minnehaha Trees' initiative in St. Paul

·2 min read

Jul. 22—The dreaded Emerald Ash Borer recently cost residents in and around St. Paul's Minnehaha Avenue nearly 100 ash trees, which were removed by the city from the public boulevard a few weeks ago to slow the spread of the invasive beetle.

Rather than despair, residents, business owners and civic leaders associated with Hamline Church United Methodist have banded together to take a stand for foliage, with the blessing of City Hall.

"It's hotter, it's louder, and people I think have been driving faster, because it feels more open," said longtime Minnehaha Avenue homeowner Richard Trout. "Speeds have been out of control as it is. Lowering the speed limit to 25 miles per hour was a nice gesture, but I don't think it's made much difference."

When the Hamline-Midway boosters learned that the earliest the city would replant the missing trees is 2023, they pooled resources to launch "Replant Minnehaha Trees," an initiative aimed at jumpstarting the effort and fast-tracking stump removals and replantings.

Members held a launch party on July 15 at the Hamline Church greenway at 1514 Englewood Ave., with speakers including Trout; Russ Stark, St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter's chief resilience officer; Adam Strehlow, an urban forester with St. Paul Parks and Rec/Forestry Department; City Council Member Mitra Jalali; and Rachel Morice, a Community Forestry Program Coordinator with Tree Trust.

The goal is to learn from history by replacing as many trees as possible this fall with a biodiverse mix of trees species that will be more resilient to future pests.

The first order of business is to contract a stump removal and grinding company in the late summer to remove stumps at 50 locations or more. To accomplish that, Replant Minnehaha Trees hopes to raise at least $12,500, which will mostly go toward stump-grinding and volunteer recruitment.

"It's in fundraising mode," Trout said on Thursday. "Right now they're gathering signatures for the stump-grinding application to the city."

The volunteers also plan to apply for a tree-planting grant through Tree Trust's "Green Futures" program. The aim is that Tree Trust will coordinate with the city to provide trees to replant this fall.

The removal of nearly 100 trees "was not just a loss to Hamline Midway, but to everyone who drives, bikes and walks down Minnehaha Avenue," reads a written notice from the volunteers. "Unfortunately, with the city's resources stretched thin, the city does not plan to replant until 2023 at earliest."

The initiative has laid out the process for individual homeowners to submit a permit application for a tree replanting on its Facebook page at Facebook.com/ReplantMinnehahaTrees. The applications will be presented to city forestry as a group. To donate, visit hamlinechurch.org/give, and select "Give Now" and the Minnehaha Trees fund.

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