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Revised tree ordinance wins preliminary approval

Children help members of the Hudson Urban Forestry Board plant bare-root trees in the city’s new gravel-bed nursery during an Arbor Day celebration Saturday, April 26. The tree nursery is located at the city's West Garage. The board members are Ken Holman, kneeling, and Diane Frohlicher, right. The children, from left, are Grace Bonke, Nora Krasa, Ella Cothran, and Lauren and Lucas Shimmon. (Hudson Star-Observer photos by Randy Hanson)

After months of study, work and debate, it appears that an Urban Forest Ordinance for the city of Hudson is headed toward adoption.

The City Council approved the first reading of the proposal on April 21. Final approval could come as early as next Monday.

The ordinance, introduced several months ago, has been held up because of what council members considered to be over-reaching regulations and an inability to enforce them.

Ken Holman, vice chair of the Hudson Urban Forestry Board, tried to calm those fears when he presented an amended version of the ordinance to the council.

Holman, a city resident and the head of Minnesota’s community forestry program, said the main intent of the proposed ordinance is to prepare Hudson for a possible invasion of the emerald ash borer.

The green beetle is native to Asia and kills ash trees. First discovered in Michigan in 2002, the ash borer has since destroyed millions of trees in the United States.

It has been found in St. Paul and western Wisconsin communities to the south. There’s some hope that the extremely cold winter of 2013-14 slowed its advance to this area.

Holman said Hudson’s tree ordinance hasn’t been updated since the 1970s, when Dutch elm disease was the threat.

Alderperson John Hoggatt, who chairs the Urban Forestry Board, noted that language prohibiting the storage of diseased wood on private property without the permission of the city forester had been softened.

“No person, firm or corporation should store within the city of Hudson any bark bearing diseased elm wood or diseased oak wood or emerald ash borer infested ash wood or material without first contacting the city forester to review the written guidelines regarding wood storage,” the ordinance now reads.

It also suggests that property owners not prune oak trees between April 1 and Oct. 15 of each year due to potential for it to spread oak wilt.

The ordinance prohibits property owners from planting trees in street rights of way without a city permit, or to prune, harm or remove trees on public properties.

An appendix to the ordinance contains a list of recommended trees for planting on street boulevards.

The primary intend of the ordinance is educational, Hoggatt said.

Alderperson Tom McCormick still found the ordinance “heavy-handed” in places.

“Why is the city getting involved in somebody’s private land?” he asked.

Hoggatt replied that if somebody is storing emerald ash borer infested wood on their property, it is a problem for other city residents who still have healthy ash trees.

Hoggatt agreed with McCormick, however, that some of the statements saying a property owner “shall” do something could be changed to recommendations.

Hoggatt said the city does need to retain the right to impose fines in some cases.

“We have had people starting to cut trees on public rights of way,” he noted.

Later, Hoggatt added, “If you have a tree that has emerald ash borers, we’re going to come and take it.”

Randy Hanson

Randy Hanson has reported for the Star-Observer since 1997. He came to Hudson after 11 years with the Inter-County Leader at Frederic, and eight years of teaching social studies. He’s a graduate of UW-Eau Claire.

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