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Our goal at River Falls Urban Forestry is to make a healthy, diverse, and resilient urban forest. Many years ago entire streets were lined with beautiful American Elm trees. Dutch Elm Disease swept through the area and devastated our elm population. Now 30 years later, we have beautiful Ash trees lining some of our streets once again. Emerald Ash Borer will sweep through our area and devastate our Ash population. Since 2004, the City of River Falls has been striving to improve diversity in our entire tree population. We cannot limit the tree species we plant to one, two, or even five species. Our new guideline for tree diversity has a target goal of no more than 15 percent of any genus of trees in a tree population. Our approved boulevard tree list has many trees both native and non-native in an effort to make our urban forest more resilient from the next large scale pest or disease. We encourage homeowners to also find new non-invasive species that they can plant on their private property to help strengthen our forest diversity.
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The City of River Falls is responsible for all trees and other vegetation located within the boulevard area between the curb line and property line. Only the City is allowed to plant and prune trees within this area unless permission is granted by the City Forester and a site assessment is made. If there is an issue with trees or vegetation in the boulevard area notification will be given to the homeowner in the form of a door hanger prior to work commencing.
The City can check the boulevard width on your property and if a tree is within the boulevard using our mapping system by calling the City Forester’s office at 715-426-3467.
Residents are encouraged to water their boulevard trees if there is an extended hot and/or dry spell. Staking of young trees is also allowed. If your boulevard tree has sucker shoots coming up from the base or trunk, you are allowed to cut these shoots off. Any other tree maintenance must be done by city crews.
The City tries to maintain a 4-5 year trimming cycle and plans to visit every boulevard tree at least once in a five year span, but due to excessively snowy or cold winters the pruning cycle may be altered. If there is an imminent tree issue involving the safety of the public (ex. large hanger, cracked tree, severe decay), please call 715-426-3467.
There are many factors that go into planting a tree in the boulevard. Tree spacing, overhead and above ground conflicts, and boulevard size are all some of these factors. If you would like to have a tree planted by the City or plant a tree in the boulevard yourself, please call the Forester’s office and have a consultation to make sure that the tree you want to plant is the tree that should be planted in a particular location. The City will typically plant trees in early to mid-October and new tree requests are typically fulfilled at this time.
The City will follow up with watering a newly planted tree at least twice after it is planted in October. This is usually enough to get into the winter months. However, the spring and summer following planting residents are encouraged to water their new tree as needed based on conditions. The City will also put a ring of mulch around a newly planted tree. Keeping this mulch layer around the tree for the first two years after planting will help the tree to hold moisture and protect the roots of the tree as they establish.
Emerald Ash Borer(EAB) was discovered in River Falls City limits in July 2019 on the south end of the City. The infested trees have since been cut down but regular monitoring will now take place every spring to identify new EAB infested trees. River Falls has also initiated its action plan to begin to remove select Ash trees from the City before they become infested.
New detections of EAB are hard to detect. EAB infested trees won’t show much exterior stress until a couple years after infection. Adult EAB insects can only travel about a ½ a mile on their own; however, careless firewood movement of infected wood could move EAB across the City faster than expected.
If you think your Ash tree has Emerald Ash Borer, please contact the City Forester at 715-426-3467 or by email.
The City’s last all Ash tree inventory was conducted in 2012 and identified 2,053 ash trees on public property. Since then, the City has removed several of these trees but there are still close to 2,000 trees on public property. This number does not include Ash trees on private property.
The City of River Falls has been preparing for Emerald Ash Borer for over 12 years. The City stopped planting Ash trees on the boulevard and in parks in 2004 and has made a concentrated effort to remove any Ash tree that is in decline in anticipation of EAB. The next steps are to systemically chemically treat several high-value Ash trees and to start wide scale removal of smaller ash trees <12" that don't provide the benefits of larger, more mature Ash trees. Any trees scheduled for removal will be marked prior to removal to inform neighbors of the impending removal. The remaining stumps will be ground by the City during the following summer following the removal. Any tree removed will eventually be replaced, but with the amount of Ash trees being removed replacing every Ash tree will not be achievable in any given year.
Although the City will only be chemically treating a few boulevard Ash trees, the City will also allow homeowners to treat the trees in front of their house if they desire to keep their boulevard tree. Documentation of treatment will need to be provided to the City to ensure that a treated tree is not taken down. Regular inspections will also take place looking for EAB on both private and public trees beginning every April. If public Ash tree(s) are identified to be infested with EAB, the City has contracted to have the tree(s) removed. Notices will be sent to private tree owners informing them that they need to have their infested Ash tree removed within a given time of the notice. The City anticipates EAB to spread to its peak in 3-5 years. A combination of chemical treatment, pre-emptive removals, and infested tree removals as EAB spreads will make the peak of Ash tree removals more manageable.
Ash trees can be chemically treated to control EAB using different application methods. Some of these methods a homeowner can administer and some require a professional arborist. The cost of the treatment will vary based on the type of chemical treatment used. The University of Wisconsin Extension has an excellent publication about homeowner treatment which is linked to in the Urban Forestry page on the City website. If you want a professional treatment, please contact a certified arborist. It is important to know that treatment for EAB must be reapplied annually or biennially depending on the treatment administered. Treating an Ash tree only once will prolong its life by only a of couple years before the insect starts to attack the tree again. The City is currently in the process of having a few high value public ash trees treated for EAB. However, it is too cost prohibitive to have all the public Ash trees treated on a biennial basis. It is better to remove those trees and replace with a non-Ash species that would not have to be treated. Homeowners will have to make the same decision whether to chemically treat or remove Ash trees on their private property as Emerald Ash Borer spreads.
The City does allow for homeowners to have the Aash trees in their boulevard treated as long as the City receives documentation stating when the treatment was administered, what product was used, and by whom. Treatment of any boulevard Ash tree would have to be administered by a professional arborist. This data will be stored in our City tree inventory and will be updated on a regular basis. This is to prevent accidental removal of treated trees when the City needs to remove infected Ash trees.