Mark Andrew did not need to stand on a tree stump to make the point that Minneapolis lost 3,000 trees in the June 21st storm and, in his opinion, needs to accelerate the planting of replacement trees. But there was the stump. There was the podium for the news conference. And there were the corny remarks about the ”stump” speech.
“We don’t have the resources to plant trees that have been lost,” said Andrew. “We are losing trees faster than we can plant them because of budget constraints.”
The storm is not the only problem. The emerald ash borer is going to kill 38,000 public ash trees and another 175,000 of the trees on private property.
Andrew is proposing a tree-replacement program dubbed “Beautiful Boulevards” that would double the number of trees planted yearly by the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board from the current 5,000 to 10,000. Andrew said he would budget $500,000 for tree replacement in his first budget if elected mayor.
The Park and Recreation Board is responsible for planting and caring for all of the public trees in Minneapolis. The Park Board’s forestry budget is approximately $10 million a year.
That budget item would work as a challenge grant to leverage more tree funds from the private sector and from nonprofit organizations. The target for private-sector contributions would be $250,000 for a total of $750,000 available to plant trees.
“We live in an era of short resources and can’t rely solely on property taxes,” said Andrew, who added that he is still working on the funding source for the program. “The goal will be to reprogram city dollars so there is no increase needed in the property tax.”
“I think we need to plant 10,000 trees,” said Park and Recreation Board Commissioner Scott Vreeland. “This is probably the biggest storm to hit Minneapolis since it became a city. We have lost a lot of trees.”
“This will take the pressure off the Park Board staff for the accelerated planting,” said Andrew adding that citizen participation in the planting would also save money.
The program would also use a University of Minnesota process that accelerates tree growth with a combination of light and heat.
“We need more trees,” said Vreeland., “Every dollar we spend on trees returns $1.57 in benefits.”
The Park Board currently spends $100 to $175 to plant a tree, depending on the need for watering and maintenance.