Asphalt or trees? A group of St Anthony Park residents gathered on Tuesday, May 31, 2022 to declare their firm allegiance to the trees.
Armed with packing tape and scissors, the tree advocates affixed bright yellow flyers to more than 150 large trees lining Cleveland Avenue. “SAVE THE TREES!” the flyers read, noting that each flyer-festooned tree was slated for imminent destruction by county road crews.
“Given the death and necessary removal of thousands of St Paul trees due to emerald ash borer disease, you’d think a plan to cut down over 150 healthy trees would have raised eyebrows at the county planners’ offices,” observed Pat Thompson, the chair of the St Anthony Park Community Council’s transportation committee. “Why add to the destruction?”
County officials insist that the trees must go, in order to widen the road to add both in-street bike lanes and an off-street multi-use path along Cleveland – a necessity that Thompson and others representing the neighborhood firmly dispute. “St. Anthony Park Community Council maintains its strong preference for a reengineered street plan on an 8-foot-narrower roadbed,” reads a statement that Thompson and other council members sent to the Ramsey County board of commissioners late Tuesday afternoon.
The statement cites data from the Metropolitan Council (the source of much of the county’s funding for the intended project) which correlates lack of tree canopy with health disparities and heat island effects. “The urban heat island affects those at home, but also pedestrians, bicyclers, those waiting for the bus. Removing so many trees along this important corridor will significantly increase health risks and the quality of life of people who use and live by this street. The county should balance the need for a street rebuild with the increasing recognition of the value of trees for climate and human health, even if it means delaying the project one year.”
The irony that some of the largest trees slated for removal are on the verdant mall of the University of Minnesota’s College of Agriculture was not lost on the tree-flyering group. Long time St Anthony Park resident Margot Monson returned to one big oak tree on the mall to tape even more flyers to its giant trunk. “I want everyone to see what’s going to happen unless we do something,” she said grimly.
The trees were removed in June.
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