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Fridley Council Loosens Limits on City Chopping Trees

Move meant to make way for project at Springbrook Nature Center.

Fridley can now cut more than three trees an acre a year on city land for city-approved projects

Trees on Fridley public land still are going to be protected from pell mell removal under an ordinance amendment approved July 11 by the Fridley City Council—but not with as strict controls as in the original 1970s ordinance.

And the purpose of protecting trees by ordinance in not to prevent a golf course from being built on what is now the Springbrook Nature Center, as was the case when the city law was first passed.

However, Jack Kirk, director of Fridley’s Parks and Recreation Department, said the need to update and amend the ordinance became apparent when the proposed project to change the entrance area at Springbrook was submitted.

He said the proposed amendments were endorsed by the Springbrook Foundation.

Under the amended ordinance, the city council removed a restriction that no more than three trees per acre, per year, could be cut for woodland management on city land. Now, Fridley also will allow removal of trees for city-approved projects without limiting the number trees to be taken down.  

As in the original ordinance, an approved management plan will be required, but the amendment added options of creating a reforestation plan or of replacing trees as approved by the Parks and Recreation Commission, the Fridley Planning Commission and by city council resolution.

The amendment broadened the range of tree problems for which trees could be cut as well. In the earlier ordinance, provision was made for controlling oak wilt or Dutch elm disease. Now the purposely indefinite categories of tree disease and pest infestation have been added.

After the council meeting ended, Council Member Robert Barnette explained the background of the creation of a tree preservation ordinance in the first place.

He was not on the city council then but said he remembers a contentious time when a faction of people was pressing to put a golf course on the land that became Springbrook Nature Center. Others wanted to preserve the area with its trees and wildlife.

The city commissioned a costly study by a third party consultant, he said. He remembered the study determined a golf course would be a better use of the land than a preserve or park. There was a city referendum and the golf course was defeated.

Barnette, a golfer, had supported the golf course. He said the disagreement over the land has ended—and most of those involved are not in Fridley anymore.

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