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Heidi Shaffer, Published October 03 2010

Preserving trees tops Fargo’s priority list

Fargo is developing a tree preservation policy for private developers, but the city has taken a proactive approach to preserving and planting trees on public land, City Forester Scott Liudahl said.

“We have tree protection policies, but they’re all public trees,” Liudahl said.

During its last meeting, the City Commission asked staff to consider a tree preservation policy after debate over a wooded grove in the Deer Creek Addition, a private development in southwest Fargo.

There are more than 45,000 trees on city property throughout Fargo. While relocating or preserving trees isn’t practical in all locations, most city projects take trees into consideration, Liudahl said.

Two flood levee projects this fall included relocating about 85 trees on south Fargo parkland in Timberline and Meadow Creek.

Engineers met with nearby neighbors, who overwhelmingly requested the city find a way to save the trees, senior engineer April Walker said.

Bob Footitt, a Meadow Creek resident who worked to save the trees, said he was impressed with the way the project was done.

“You hate to see what’s taken so many years for nature to grow to be destroyed,” Footitt said.

In general, engineers avoid removing trees when possible, but relocation isn’t always feasible, Liudahl said.

Projects are usually evaluated on a case-by-case basis, Walker said.

The Fargo Park District takes a similar approach in preserving trees and works closely with its foresters, said Executive Director Roger Gress.

“We try to take a commonsense approach,” he said.

The public is usually the biggest judge on what the park district does with trees, Gress said.

Fargo requires developers to include trees and landscaping as part of commercial projects and mandates tree planting along boulevards within residential developments, said city planner Jim Hinderaker.

In 2009, Fargo removed 905 trees and planted 1,483, Liudahl said.

New trees replace those that are removed, usually in an effort to diversify plants to combat emerald ash borer, Liudahl said.

Construction projects also often include tree planting. For example, work scheduled to start next year along 52nd Avenue South will include 585 new trees between 45th Street and University Drive, he said.

In developing a new preservation policy, the Forestry Department will examine other cities’ efforts and work with Fargo planners and engineers to determine what can reasonably be required, Liudahl said.

But preserving trees is not always feasible, Hinderaker said. Flood-prone property where land needs to be elevated can damage trees, and a new policy would take such variables into account, he said.

Liudahl said he favors aggressively preserving wooded areas like Deer Creek but said the new policy will also consider property owners’ rights.

“When it comes to tree protection, I’m all in favor of it,” Liudahl said. “When we start talking about private property, we have to be sensitive to that, too.”

City staff expect to present a draft of the new policy to the commission by the end of the year.

Commission to review Deer Creek decision

On Monday, the Fargo City Commission will reconsider its 3-2 decision to deny rezoning the Deer Creek development after a disagreement over the inclusion of a recreational trail and preserving a mature grove of trees along the Sheyenne River.

City Commission Dave Piepkorn said he plans to have the developer, Corn II LLC, sign an agreement to work with the city forester before removing any trees on the property.

Piepkorn said the commission will look at approving the undisputed portion of the property and give developers more time to come up with a compromise on the area near the Sheyenne.

The trees make the property unique and brought to light the need to have a preservation policy on how to address the issue, Piepkorn said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Heidi Shaffer at (701) 241-5511