City receives Minnesota Forestry Outstanding Project Award

Park recognized for tree-planting initiative

Newly+planted+trees+near+Hennepin+Ave.++138+trees+and+23+different+varieties+were+planted+in+the+%27Plant+the+Park%27+project.

Culver Carden

Newly planted trees near Hennepin Ave. 138 trees and 23 different varieties were planted in the 'Plant the Park' project.

Eli Curran-Moore

According to the city of St. Louis Park, the city received the Minnesota Community Forestry Outstanding Project Award for the ‘Plant the Park’ project in October 2017. The annual award is given by the Minnesota Society of Arboriculture and Minnesota’s Urban Forest Council.

Jim Vaughan, St. Louis Park Natural Resources Coordinator, said he worked with partners Tree Trust, Hennepin County, and Minnesota Shade Tree Advisory Committee (MNSTAC) — Minnesota’s Community Forestry Council.

“(MNSTAC) gives directions for urban forestry, and works with the DNR to help Minnesota. There’s different categories for the award, we won for best project,” Vaughan said. “I helped figure out some of the trees the county was going to plant, where they were going to plant them, the timing of it, as well as work with the other partners.”

Plant the Park was a tree-planting project in partnership with Hennepin County and Tree Trust to plant trees along Minnetonka Boulevard. 138 trees and 23 different varieties were planted, according to the city news bulletin.

Senior Michael Segal was familiar with the project and said he’d seen the result of the city’s efforts.

“I’ve heard things about (the award). I’ve seen pictures and things from the event. I know they plant lots of trees,” Segal said.

According to senior Chava Buchbinder, nature as a part of daily life is crucial in a city. Buchbinder said she can’t see any downside to the project and it will benefit Park in a multitude of ways.

“Having plants in an area that’s highly populated is never a bad idea. There’s not really any disadvantage to planting more trees,” Buchbinder said. “Aside from the fact that, yes, they are aesthetically pleasing, it’s good to help the environment. It’s never a bad thing to plant more trees. In terms of human need, you need nature to survive.”

According to the city news bulletin, the event was “part of Hennepin County’s initiative to plant trees along county streets that have minimal tree canopy and yearly efforts to diversify our community tree canopy.” This new tree canopy is said to eventually provide the city with many benefits including “improved air and water quality, reduced stormwater runoff, savings in heating and cooling, enhanced livability and increased property values,” according to the city.

According to Vaughan, back in the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s, the entirety of Minnetonka Boulevard in St. Louis Park from the end of the Minnetonka city border all the way to the east side of the city of Minneapolis had a tree canopy, primarily composed of American Elm Trees.

“We had a huge green canopy that you drive under the whole way, it was quite nice. Then Dutch Elms Disease from mid-‘70s to early ‘80s destroyed them all. For years after, the county didn’t want to have any trees put along that corridor,” Vaughan said.

Senior Jake Dempsey said he appreciates the city’s effort to maintain natural greenery after the toll a long, frigid Minnesota winter can have.

“I think (the project) is nice. Lots of trees suffer or die during the winter and this winter was pretty bad to say the least,” Dempsey said. “So it’s nice to replant new wildlife and give back to nature a bit.”

Vaughan said Hennepin County recently hired their first forester two years ago, who reinstituted the plantings with hopes of creating a new, diverse canopy.

“(The forester) convinced them we should be planting trees along country roads. We got a good stretch done, not quite that whole border to border corridor,” Vaughan said. “For future generations, it should be quite nice to get back that once sweet green canopy that we had.”

According to Vaughan, Tree Trust and St. Louis Park are throwing an annual arbor day celebration on May 12 at Shelard park, where 75 new trees will be planted in the park.

“We do a lot with Tree Trust, hopefully, we’ll be partnering again with the county. So we do have community planting similar to this, but not necessarily along a street like this. Not this year, perhaps next year we’ll have another street community planting,” Vaughan said.