Linden Hills Takes on Dutch Elm Disease with Rebate Program
Linden Hills Neighborhood Council offers $100 rebates for residents willing to treat elm trees on their property to prevent Dutch elm disease
Kathy Urberg has always been a gardener, but it wasn't until after her retirement about five years ago that she looked up and saw magnificent elm trees above her head, a sight that had become less common as thousands of city elms were devastated by Dutch elm disease in recent decades.
"There were orange rings all over the place," she said, referring to the city's habit of marking diseased trees with orange spray paint. Urberg was inspired to take a tree-care course that taught her about Dutch elm disease treatments that are almost fully effective, but costly.
Newly elected to the Linden Hills Neighborhood Council, she became chair of the organization's Environment Committee. Under her leadership, the committee put together a program offering rebates to homeowners who arranged treatment for elms with the disease. It's funded by Neighborhood Revitilzation Programs funds.
The average cost of treatment is about $300. Linden Hills council began by offering $50 rebates for residents to get treatments for diseased elms on their property, which was later increased to $100. Recently, they've also covered some larger amounts for families facing tough economic times. Urberg said she knows of about four or five families that applied for the additional funds beyond the $100 rebate.
Urberg said that she feels good that the council was able to help, especially those elderly residents who have been in their homes a long time and live on fixed incomes. "We would hate to see these great old trees lost because someone couldn't afford to treat it," she said.
Urberg said she knows of at least three instances where neighbors chipped in for tree care for people who couldn't afford it. "That is so encouraging when people living in the neighborhood recognize the value of a tree three houses down," she said.
When Ginny Templeton first moved into her home in Linden Hills in 1991, there was an elm right in front of her house that had to be removed because of Dutch elm disease. "It was like a spotlight right in front of the house," she said.
After that, there was no question about whether she would treat the two elm trees between her and her neighbor's yard. Workers from the city told her that the tree on the border of her neighbor's yard had Dutch elm disease on one of it's branches and would have to be removed. "I said 'No, you can't do that.'" She hired Rainbow Tree care to remove the diseased limb—since then the tree has been fine.
Ralph Sievert, Director of Forestry for the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, said that this year 1,252 elm trees were condemned on public property, while 1,124 were condemned on private. There are about 22,600 Elm trees remaining in Minneapolis, he said.
Scott Henke, an arborist for Rainbow Treecare, said that Linden Hills residents treat about 50-100 elm trees a year. The loss rate for treated trees is about one percent. The treatment involves a macro injection infusion, which is essentially an IV system that injects trees with a solution that deters the growth of fungus. The treatment needs to occur in the summer months, Henke said, because the leaves need to be fully emerged on the tree in order to draw the water up through the branches.
When Rainbow works with homeowners, they have to notify the city if they are treating a tree on a boulevard. "Minneapolis is actually pretty far ahead of most cities in terms of Dutch elm disease," Henke said. "Most cities don't have neighborhood groups that do this."
Phillip Edwards gets the two trees in his yard treated on a regular basis because he knows Dutch elm disease is a risk in the neighborhood. He remembers what it was like when he lived in Rochester, NY., and his neighborhood lost all its elms. Edwards remembers a dead elm tree in his old neighborhood blowing dead branches across the street to the schoolyard. "We were very aware of Dutch elm disease and were eager to prevent it from happening here," he said.