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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Trees in the way of road repair

At first I thought that young people were getting ready for a party on Fourth Street.  That’s the street I usually take going downtown or to the shopping plaza near the Duluth branch of the University of Minnesota.  East Fourth Street is an older neighborhood and it houses many off-campus students.  I had seen the tree decorations from the road.  They remained and it wasn’t until I walked along the blocks that I could read quotes tacked on the old trees, and see how the trees were also residents of the neighborhood.  Especially to the house owners.  They are old trees, silver maple, ash, northern oak, and elm that form an arching pergola over the busy street, old trees that are glorious in the fall.

Most of my life, I’ve lived near a wide street that leads to a city downtown.  Street repair and neighborhood renewal are usual scenes.  At another location in Duluth, I watched the construction for new sewer pipes in a concave of dirt where old tires gave ballast to the streets.  This was an avenue and because there weren’t many trees on the boulevard, I watched only one tree removed and replaced with a sapling.  It mattered to a house owner at the time, and to me because of the tree’s fall color.

Fourth Street obviously needs repair.  It’s a bumpy ride.  Up here in Duluth, roads weather harsh winters.  But now, about 75 percent of the old trees on that street’s boulevards are threatened to be cut down.  Because the excavation and removal of old sewer pipes, pipes from as long ago as 1888, will damage tree roots.   Even so, the University of Minnesota Extension department maintains that the trees in question might be tolerant to having half of their roots cut.  In a city survey, most Fourth Street trees were in good to excellent condition.  The Duluth Budgeteer explained the issue.

So the argument has begun about this road construction slated for 2016.  The city promises to plant new trees in the boulevards while it also plans bike paths along the street.   Perhaps they could save trees, see how they do after the road and sewer pipe repair, and then remove dying trees and replant where needed?   I know that they’ll have to cut the arching branches to accommodate the vehicles necessary for the repair.

I looked at a map that showed the excavation points and of course, there are many near my location.   I had been working on the publication of Josiah’s Apple Orchard when I learned of this.   A spoiler here, but the kids in the book found out that an apple picking trip was their last because of a similar issue.  At least they didn’t live near the orchard.

One of my first writings in childhood was about a plum tree in our front yard that was charred and split during a lightning storm.  That absolutely horrified me.  The tree gave good plums.   Particular trees become familiars.  Certain trees in my childhood neighborhood, a letterbox tree, a catalpa tree in Minneapolis, an apple tree in St. Paul, a mountain ash tree at my previous Duluth address.  I think I will have to show the annual pictures I take of fall color in Duluth in another blog post.

Josiah’s Apple Orchard was published in August 2014.   It is a Middle Grade novel set in the 1960s although its farmer’s markets and its music lessons are like those today.

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