Ash borer concerns park panel

FAIRMONT — The Fairmont Park Board spent much of its meeting Tuesday pondering how the recent discovery of an emerald ash borer, a type of beetle, could impact the city’s trees.

The presence of the invasive pest in Martin County was confirmed recently when one was captured in an early-detection trap northeast of Welcome.

“It’s pretty significant. It kills every ash it encounters,” said Troy Nemmers, city engineer/public works director.

He could not say exactly how many ash trees are in the city, but estimated it could be more than 5,000.

Board member Mary Don Kislingbury said Minnesota is the leading state for the number of ash trees, and some cities are taking down thousands as a preemptive measure.

Nemmers said the city plants a variety of new trees every fall to replace those removed due to disease or storms. About 30 new trees will be planted this year.

Board members questioned the cost to the city, as well as homeowners, if trees would have to be removed, and wondered if there is any way to be proactive and accelerate funding to replace the trees.

“At what point are we required to take them down?” Nemmers asked.

He hoped to get an answer to that question and others at a special public meeting at 5:30 p.m. today in room 103 at the Martin County Courthouse. Experts from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, the University of Minnesota and other state and federal agencies will be available to answer questions.

In other business, the board:

o Was receptive to a suggestion to name the bike and walking trails in Fairmont but decided to delay any decision until the end of the online open house underway until Sept. 29 at the city’s website, www.fairmont.org

o Discussed but took no action on the band shell at Sylvania Park. The structure, which board members believe is underutilized, is showing signs of disrepair. A paved path from the parking lot to the band shell also was suggested.

o Heard a report from Roni Dauer about the many Community Education and Recreation activities that are ongoing. Tony Roesner is teaching the new fishing club, designed to teach students from third grade on up, the whole gamut of the pastime, but additional adult mentors are needed. Dauer noted that the new fall/winter CER catalog should be in the mail at the end of this week.

o Learned about the addition of a new swing set to the playground equipment at Ward Park and the replacement of the bridge with a culvert on the bike path by Heritage Acres.

o Thanked Hannah Botzet for her Girl Scout Silver Award project. She installed fishing line recycling containers at 15 Martin County lakes, including Fairmont’s chain of lakes.

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