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Putting down roots on Midway’s Snelling Ave.

Posted on 08 August 2016 by Calvin

Story and photos by MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN

The beginning of a new urban canopy is starting to grow along Snelling Ave.
According to City of St. Paul urban forester Zach Jorgensen, “83 trees were planted between Selby and Hewitt avenues in July.”

Snelling trees 06“We had to remove 57 mature trees for the reconstruction project last summer, mostly ash, and maple,” Jorgensen said. “Those trees were mature for their urban site, with trunks as large as 10” in diameter in some cases.”

Photo left: Zach Jorgensen, City of St. Paul urban forester said, “We’re working with some pretty tough elements here on Snelling Ave. We had to choose ‘work-horse’ trees like Honey Locust, that can take the engine exhaust, road salt, and inconsistent watering.”

“The new plantings are much more varied,” he continued, “and will likely be a better investment for the future. Species include Patriot and Discovery Elm, Swamp White Oak, Honey Locust, Kentucky Coffee Tree, and Century Linden. There will be a concentration of Prairie Sentinel Hackberry in the median near the I-94 intersection.”

Snelling trees 04Photo right: Brian Woyda, owner of Woyda & Mortel, Inc., will be responsible for keeping new trees watered and maintained this year.

Brian Woyda, owner of the landscape construction company Woyda & Mortel, Inc., did the installation with a crew of three workers. The planting took about a week, interrupted occasionally by the summer’s highest heat indexes. The crew averaged more than ten trees per day, removing brick pavers, digging deep holes for the installations and tamping the soil back into place with an industrial compacter. Woyda & Mortel, Inc. will be responsible for watering the trees for the rest of this growing season.

According to Jorgenson, “90% of the cost of tree installations for the city involves what goes on below ground. “ He explained, “We can’t use just ordinary soil because the trees take so much abuse in this heavily urbanized environment. We’ve chosen to go with what is called a structural soil mix. The one we use comes out of Cornell University. It’s made up of crushed granite, clay loam, and hydro-gel, a binder that holds everything together. We buy it by the ton.”

Snelling trees 05Photo left: Kyle Hunter compacted the structural soil to hold a new tree in place —while still allowing for good water flow.

Barb Spears is a long-time Hamline Midway resident, born at Midway Hospital. She trained as an urban forester, and serves on St. Paul’s Tree Advisory Panel. “The panel’s mission is to serve as a link between the citizens of St. Paul and its forestry department to preserve, provide and enhance St. Paul’s urban canopy,” she noted.

“There will be opportunities for people,” Spears said, “especially Snelling Ave. business owners, to adopt nearby trees beginning in 2017.” Because the trees are surrounded by permeable pavers, they can be watered directly onto the soil or even through the pavers. To inquire about adopting a tree next year, or to report a tree looking stressed at any time, call the City Forestry Department at 651-632-5129.

Snelling trees 09Photo right: Workers installed 83 new trees along Snelling Ave. in high heat and humid conditions.

Spears also serves on the Hamline Midway Environment Committee. Her colleague there, Lucy Hunt, said, “We’re very happy to be getting these trees. A canopy of trees isn’t only beautiful; it’s good for the whole community. In the inner-city, we have high ozone levels and way too much air pollution. Getting 83 new trees is a nod to our neighbors that City Hall cares about our air quality.”

In addition to improved air quality, an urban tree canopy contributes to improved human health, better storm water retention, reduced energy costs and a mitigated “heat island effect” by cutting down on the amount of pavement exposed to the sun.

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