Forester keeps parks beautiful

Fairmont residents might be surprised to learn that the city employs a forester/horticulturist, but with trees filling 29 parks and miles of boulevards in town, it’s a necessity.

Chad Striemer, an 18-year municipal employee, studied at South Dakota State University and worked the circuit of city jobs from the park department, to engineering, to the street department and back to parks. He has filled the role of forester/horticulturist since 2012.

“I take care of all the trees in the parks, all the trimmings, the removals, the plantings, but I don’t do this by myself,” Striemer said.

With the exception of a large portion of the flowers in east side of Lincoln Park that Craig Nelson plants and maintains, Striemer also is responsible for the care of the hanging baskets lining Blue Earth Avenue, the large flower pots on Downtown Plaza, the flowers at Ward Park and those behind City Hall. Striemer calls Nelson “a one-man army” for his contributions, and he gives much credit to college students that the city hires as seasonal help.

“We have eight college kids that help us in the summer,” Striemer said. “One of them goes on the street department, and the other seven help us all the time in the parks. If it wasn’t for those kids, we couldn’t possibly get everything done. We have four mowers, three that are running all the time. The other one runs three out of five days a week.”

When planting season arrives, Striemer tags a couple of the college students to help him plant.

“Then I have one full-time kid that waters three times a week — not just the flowers, but the new trees and new vines — and I’ve got guys that help me weed,” he said. “Without the guy watering them every other day, the flowers wouldn’t look like this.”

Striemer’s work on the flower beds begins months before actual planting.

“Before Christmas, I’ve got all my stuff liked up. By the first of the year, I’ve got all my (bed) designs done, and it’s a gamble. I’m looking at a picture on a computer, and I wonder if I’m going to get it to look like that,” he said. “I give my order to Janzen’s Greenhouse in January, and they start growing the plants for me at the greenhouse.”

Maintaining annual flowers presents some difficulties so Striemer has started putting perennials, which do well in bright sunlight, in some of the beds. This year, he opted to plant the annuals using only one color in each bed, a decision that led to beautiful results.

Occasionally, there’s a slip-up.

“The Veterans Park flag pole — I always do red, white and blue of some kind of flower around the pole,” Striemer said. “This year, there was a couple of pink ones in there.”

Because he frequently works in the parks, Striemer takes note of any trees that need attention, whether it’s trimming or removal.

“When I do a big removal, I need four or five guys. When we’re busy with everything else, you’ve got make sure you’ve got enough guys,” he said.

A tree might need to be removed because of storm damage, disease or insects. Striemer stays up to date on diseases and parasites through the University of Minnesota, which maps out the location of existing and new cases.

Next month, he will be planting about 25 new trees in the city. Some are purchased by the city, and others are “memorial trees,” those donated by family members in the name of a loved one.

One thing Striemer has always wanted to do was an inventory and mapping of the trees on city-owned property, a gargantuan task considering the many hundreds of trees this would involve.