Glad You Asked: Why have so many trees around Cherry Street been cut down?

It's unclear exactly why some are ailing, but the Grand Forks Park District has removed dozens of dead or dying ash trees in southern Grand Forks.

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Q: Why are so many trees being removed from the berms on South Cherry Street and surrounding side streets? It’s heartbreaking to lose mature trees from the neighborhood.

Over the past three years, Grand Forks Park District workers have cut down between 150 and 200 trees in an area south of 32nd Avenue, north of 47th Avenue, east of South Washington Street and west of Belmont Road.

Virtually all of those trees are ash trees that are either dead or dying, according to Sean Lee, the park district’s forestry operations manager. Most are either black or green ash trees – the green ones are being destroyed by carpenter worms and other invaders, and the black ones have been dying off across North Dakota after the past few winters, which have been particularly long.

It’s unclear exactly why black ash trees have been dying recently. In Lee’s estimation, it’s unlikely that anyone will seek an answer because emerald ash borers, the beetles that have wreaked ecological havoc in North America and Europe, will presumably destroy most of Grand Forks’ ash trees in a few years anyway, rendering moot any potential study.

The best explanation Lee has heard is that black ash are best suited for swamps, which are few and far between in North Dakota. They’re narrow and stand more or less upright, which makes them well-suited for planting along berms. Ash trees became popular among city beautifiers amid the rise of dutch elm disease decades ago.


“They’re hardy, temperature-wise, supposedly,” Lee told the Herald, “but with trees, you don’t really know sometimes until they’ve been in the ground 30, 40, 50 years and see exactly how they’re going to do.”

Glad You Asked is a segment in the Grand Forks Herald. Do you have a locally interesting question you'd like answered? Submit it to and we'll consider it. Be sure to put "Glad You Asked" in the subject line.

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Joe Bowen is an award-winning reporter at the Duluth News Tribune. He covers schools and education across the Northland.

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