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Grand Forks Forestry Department wraps up tree removal for the year

GRAND FORKS--A stump grinder roared to life Thursday morning in an otherwise peaceful neighborhood on Campbell Drive. Mike Fugazzi, manager of the city's Forestry Department, looked on as dust and flecks of an old elm tree flew, laughing.

Jerry Notbohm rakes ground-up wood Friday morning on Campbell Drive.
Jerry Notbohm rakes ground-up wood Friday morning on Campbell Drive. Tess Williams/Grand Forks Herald

GRAND FORKS-A stump grinder roared to life Thursday morning in an otherwise peaceful neighborhood on Campbell Drive. Mike Fugazzi, manager of the city's Forestry Department, looked on as dust and flecks of an old elm tree flew, laughing.

"It's not a quiet operation," he said.

Fugazzi leads eight full-time staff members in removing diseased berm and park trees during the summer. Now that it's September, Forestry is wrapping up and removing the last of the city's damaged trees.

"This year, we'll be taking out about 400 berm trees," Fugazzi said, including those a storm knocked down earlier this summer.

Tree removal season begins in June, when Forestry begins inspecting trees for symptoms of disease and other damage. Once Forestry has confirmed a tree is sick, it proceeds to notify nearby residents before cutting it down.

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A second crew will come by and grind up the diseased stump, followed by a third crew responsible for taking the remains back to the department's tree farm. There, Forestry will wait three to four years until the remains become dirt.

Common culprits

"What everybody's familiar with is Dutch elm disease," Fugazzi said. "We take out roughly 150 a year for that."

Some 20 to 30 years ago, Fugazzi recalled taking out 1,200 elms a year when the disease was a bigger problem.

Efforts to exterminate the beetle responsible for spreading the disease were expensive.

"They were trying to do it chemically, but the cost and everything wasn't efficient," Fugazzi said.

Now, Forestry mitigates Dutch elm damage by planting fewer elm trees. In the past, Forestry planted rows of them at a time, Fugazzi said workers now plant a combination of three different tree varieties per area.

"So if something happened," he said, "for every three you'd only lose one."

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Of the 47,000 trees Forestry takes care of in Grand Forks, Fugazzi estimated ash trees make up 40 percent. According to Fugazzi, he has an eye on the Emerald Ash Borer, a "devastating little insect" notorious for its damage next door in Minnesota. Although the bug has yet to enter North Dakota, Fugazzi said state officials have been "trapping" for the past seven years "to see if we have it here and if it's coming."

The next phase

Forestry spends June to September tracking down Dutch elm disease and removing trees accordingly. The next five months, Fugazzi said, are for upkeep.

"During winter, we probably do about 90 percent of our tree pruning," Fugazzi said. Staff maintain Grand Forks trees on a seven to eight year rotation.

"It's actually a good time to do it for us," he said. "We're not interrupted-like, in the summertime, we're constantly getting called about going to this, that and everywhere."

There's also less damage to berm and park turf when limbs fall in the winter, Fugazzi said, because the ground is covered in snow.

By May, Forestry staff receive new trees and spend the rest of the month replanting them across the city. Fugazzi anticipated the department will plant another 600 to 700 trees next May.

"We're always planting more than we're cutting down," Fugazzi said. That's because as the city expands, Forestry needs to fill new neighborhoods.

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Related Topics: CITY OF GRAND FORKS
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