Richfield is taking aggressive steps to combat EAB

Richfield is taking aggressive steps to combat EAB

Richfield, Minn. (May 23, 2022) – If you have driven, walked or rode your bike by Richfield’s Donaldson Park recently, you may have noticed something out of place.

Forty-five of the park’s trees have been marked with a very noticeable florescent orange circle on their trunks indicating that in the coming weeks they will be removed. For any park, removing 45 trees is a major change to the green space’s aesthetic, but in the case of Donaldson Park, it was a necessity because they are all ravaged with emerald ash borer (EAB).

Emerald ash borer is an invasive insect that has killed millions of ash trees throughout the eastern half of the U.S. and southeastern Canada. Native to eastern Russia, northern China, Japan, and Korea, emerald ash borer infests and kills both weak and healthy ash trees. All ash species native to North America are vulnerable to attack.

With nearly one billion ash trees in Minnesota, the spread of emerald ash borer has had a serious impact on the state’s forests and communities. Richfield has not been immune to the scourge of EAB, but over the past several years it has made combatting the invasive species a priority.

Back in 2012, the Public Works Department created a plan to manage the ash tree population through the treatment and removal of EAB infested trees.

A decade later, the department spends more than $50,000 a year on tree injections. These treatments have allowed the department to extend the life of thousands of trees and in some cases reverse the negative effects of the invasive insects.

Unfortunately, not all ash trees are able to be saved and some still need to be removed to ensure that the embedded beetles are extricated from the tree population of Richfield. These removed trees are replaced by public works workers at a ratio of one to 1.5 by a variety of other tree species.

“In the 1970s, Richfield’s elm tree population was decimated by Dutch elm disease and they were primarily replaced by ash trees because they were known for their heartiness,” explained city forester Joe Clarke. “Regrettably, replacing one tree with another and not diversifying the overall population just set up the city to suffer the same outcome again.”

This time around, the Public Works Department is working to ensure that any future tree pandemic will not wipe out 15 percent of the city’s canopy. Ash trees are replaced from an ever-growing list of more than 30 tree options, ranging from oaks to gingkoes to crab apples.

“For decades, our tree replacement list was very restrictive and included only about five tree options,” said Deputy Public Works Director Chris Link. “We have really branched out and are adding more and more trees to the list all the time. Richfield’s tree canopy is one of the ‘gems’ of the city and we want to keep it looking diverse and vibrant.”

The city has been mustering most of its EAB resources to combat the infestation in the more than 2,000 ash trees residing in public spaces, such as parks and the right-of-way. To help accomplish this, the Public Works Department applied for and was awarded a $100,000 grant from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. 

The grant will be used to identify and prioritize the removal and replacement of ash trees in east and southeast Richfield, which is the area of the city with the highest concentration of the tree species. The city will match the grant with an additional $31,269 from the streets/forestry operating budget.  

In all, the grant and matching funds will help aid in the removal and replacement of 294 ash trees.

Residents are an integral part of helping stop the spread of EAB throughout Richfield.

“As a city, I feel like we have been executing a necessary and aggressive plan to combat EAB in our public trees, but the trees on private property are what I worry most about,” remarked Link. “If your ash tree has thinning leaves, damaged bark or D-shaped exit holes, it probably has EAB. Luckily, there is a lot you can do to try and save it.”

Residents can take advantage of the city’s tree inspection service, where the city forester comes to a resident’s home and inspects the tree, as well as provides recommendations. 

If the ash tree is salvageable and it is within a resident’s budget, they should consider treating the tree. Most tree contractors offer this service. Plus, the city has a list of trusted tree service partners on its EAB webpage.

Back to Donaldson Park, the 45 ash trees marked for removal still have a little time before they are cut down. Right now, the Public Works Department estimates that the trees will be removed in late May or early June, with a subsequent community tree planting event taking place during the fall.

To learn more about Richfield’s EAB program, visit: