The May 22, 2011 tornado that touched down through 3.5 miles of North Minneapolis downed 2,400 boulevard trees and 3,425 park trees. Today, following last year’s removal of trees, debris and stumps, the Minneapolis Park Board’s forestry crews began a two-month effort to plant 3,100 trees in what they are calling the Northside Treecovery Program.
Minneapolis Park Superintendent Jayne Miller and Park Board President John Erwin were joined by City Council Members Barbara Johnson, Diane Hofstede and Don Samuels and State Representatives Bobby Joe Champion and Joe Mullery this morning to plant the very first tree of the year, and to share plans for the season.
“The May 2011 tornado was devastating to both our parks and our community.” said Superintendent Miller. “While clearing boulevard trees was an important part of the Park Board’s response to the tornado, our first priority was, and continues to be, helping residents and the Northside neighborhoods.”
Last year, in addition to forestry crews clearing trees and debris, Park Board recreation centers served as an emergency recovery center and temporary Red Cross shelter. The Park Board also partnered with community leaders and organizations to employ northside teens, send youth to camps and raise funds for northside sports programs. This year, the Park Board is focusing on greening the northside and helping people find jobs within the park system.
“This Board is committed to greening Minneapolis,” said Park Board President John Erwin. “Last year, prior to the tornado, we planted 5,500 trees throughout the city. This year we’re planting 6,000 trees, with 3,100 of those trees in the four North Minneapolis neighborhoods hit by the tornado.”
There will be 21 different tree types planted, from familiar types like Maple, Linden and Hackberry to types currently underrepresented on boulevards, such as River Birch, Kentucky Coffeetree, Buckeye, Bicolor Oak and Alder. Most trees will be between eight and 12 feet tall. The cost of the 3,100 trees is estimated at $250,000. Plans are already in place to help these young trees survive and thrive.
“Our forestry crews will work throughout April and May to get these trees planted and mulched, and then they will place watering bags around each tree to provide an easy way for residents to help water the trees along the boulevards,” explained Erwin. “As part of our tree planting efforts on the northside and our education efforts throughout the city, we are also launching a tree watering campaign to ensure the long term survival of young trees.”
The Park Board’s popular Elmer the Elm Tree mascot will help spread the word about the importance of tree watering and that it only costs residents about $3 to water a tree weekly for five months. The message is important this year given the low snowfall this past winter and the nine years of drought the Twin Cities has experienced.
The Park Board is partnering with the City and other organizations to get the word out, not just for watering boulevard trees but residential trees as well. Last year, the City of Minneapolis partnered with Tree Trust to provide 1,400 trees to residents, including 400 of those trees to residents within the tornado-affected area.
“The City of Minneapolis has worked closely with homeowners, businesses and organizations throughout North Minneapolis to provide critical services and assistance,” said Council President Barbara Johnson. “So many residents lost the trees in their yards and we think it’s important to provide free trees to those who want and need them.”
There are still a limited number of free trees available for residents within the tornado affected area. They can be ordered online at www.treetrust.org through Friday, April 13 while supplies last.
“The planting of trees is another example of our Northside commitment to recover and prosper after the devastation of the tornado and foreclosures,” said State Representative Joe Mullery.
To continue their Northside Treecovery efforts, the Park Board is partnering with corporate groups who are contributing funds and volunteers for planting of 1,000 of the 3,100 trees during the Park Board’s May 14-19 Arbor Week in North Minneapolis. A community tree planting event is scheduled for Saturday, May 19, from 9 a.m. to Noon. Opportunities are available for adult volunteers to plant trees on boulevards in the Webber-Camden neighborhood and for young volunteers to help water trees in Folwell Park. According to the Park Board’s Volunteer Department, there has been an overwhelming volunteer interest in the Arbor Day events and limited volunteer spots remain, with many of those designated for community members in the Jordan, Folwell, Webber-Camden and Willard-Hay neighborhoods hit hardest by the tornado.
The public support for re-greening the northside has been appreciated, and contributions for tree planting can still be made through the Minneapolis Parks Foundation at www.mplsparksfoundation.org.
For more information about the Park Board's Northside Treecovery Program, sign up to recieve email updates.