Chris Rogers, editor, Winona Post

 

Drive down Huff Street right now or pass Windom Park on Broadway and you’ll see tree after tree wrapped with green ribbons. These ribbons aren’t marking them for the chainsaw. Quite the opposite — the ribbon-wrapped trees are all ashes, doomed to die from emerald ash borer and be cut down in the coming years unless people like us care an awful lot.

In several of Winona’s most beloved parks and boulevards, a huge percentage of the mature trees are ash. In retrospect, it was a poor decision to plant so many trees of the same species in a row, but here we are. Since the invasive, tree-killing emerald ash borer beetle came to Winona years ago, the city has invested thousands in treating ash trees with pesticides to keep them alive a bit longer and prevent them from all dying at once. But trees have to be treated every couple years indefinitely to remain protected. After delaying and spreading out the damage for several years, the City Council called it quits in a split vote last fall, deciding that it wasn’t worth the ongoing cost to keep these trees alive.

The financial burden is substantial, but whole stretches of Winona parks could be bare in a few years with no action. Enter the green ribbons. Howard Krueger, Greg Olson, Kathy and Dave Christenson, and several other citizens — the Friends of Winona Parks — have stepped up to raise money to keep treating some of these trees and plant a diverse mix to replace them. My hat’s off to them.

As a kid, I loved climbing in trees, hopping over gnarly roots, and laying in beds of pine needles, but I never thought twice about whether they would be there next year. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to appreciate just how long it takes to produce a mature, shade-giving tree. Even years after clear-cutting, I’ve seen forests only starting to recover their former glory. When street reconstruction takes out mature boulevard trees, the pavement will need patching before new saplings can grow to full size to meaningfully replace them. I may be balding before today’s transplants can shade my scalp. The mature trees we have are the only ones we’re going to get this decade, so we should preserve them as best we can.

The Friends of Winona Parks are accepting donations to help preserve these trees via PayPal at tinyurl.com/4nf23v54 or by check at the Winona Community Foundation, c/o Friends of Winona Parks, 111 Riverfront, Suite 2 East Annex, Winona, MN, 59987.