Oakdale branches out with landscaping

Many of the dogwoods, hazelnuts and white oaks along the south end of Hadley Avenue stand only a few feet high, some of them so small that their leaves barely extend beyond the top of their protective green tubes.

The saplings, planted along the avenue earlier this year, may not catch anyone’s attention now, but Oakdale city officials hope the trees - and other landscaping around the city - will pay big dividends in the future.

“The city council has decided that in beautifying the city, we’re going to try to bring our city to another level,” Council Member Stan Karwoski said in a recent phone interview. “Especially on our signature street and on our key corners, we want people to think, ‘Wow, this is a really nice road. This is a really nice place.’”

Building on its longstanding tree-planting legacy, Oakdale has stepped up its commitment to beautifying the city’s major streets, highways and parks in an effort to improve the quality of life and attract new business.

The city has spruced up Furlong Park, Eberle Park and Walton Park recently and committed an additional $87,000 to park maintenance in the preliminary budget for next year.

Landscaping has gone in around city hall and the new fire station, and planned improvements on city property at Inwood Avenue and Fourth Street will be “dramatic,” Karwoski said.

Also, in keeping with the Oakdale’s designation as a “Tree City, U.S.A.,” volunteers have planted more than 1,000 trees around the city in the past five years.

Annual plantings

This past May, volunteers planted more than 400 white spruce, cherry, paper birch and other tree varieties along Hadley Avenue - the city’s designated signature street - between Fourth Avenue to Tenth Street. The city spent $3,500 to purchase the plants and planting materials.

Most of the trees were planted in clusters with one large central tree surrounded by smaller ones. The mix of varieties will create a visual array of colors and sizes and the variation should also improve the survival rate of the trees, Rogstad said.

Next spring, the city is planning to improve the aesthetics of one of its northern entranceways by planting about 120 trees on Hadley between Highway 36 and 44th Street. The city is applying for a grant that would pay $3,500 for half of the trees. The city’s portion would be about $3,000.

Prior to focusing on the streetscape projects, the city used state grant money for 600 trees planted in vacant areas along Interstate 694 from Interstate 94 to Highway 120.

“The idea was to plant trees along major roadways to make it look nice for people traveling through our community,” said Ron Rogstad, the city’s administrative services director. “The city thought it was pretty important to have trees along the interstate.”

According to Rogstad, the interstate tree-planting project, which took place once a year for four years, created a strong network of volunteers and a streamlined process that has been an advantage as the project moves to more residential areas.

Rogstad said he believes the city will focus on primary streets like Hadley and Highway 5 before moving to residential neighborhoods.

Karwoski said he expects the city to continue the tree-planting program indefinitely, especially since there is such strong volunteer support. More than 125 volunteers typically help out with the annual tree plantings.

Concerns over inadequate maintenance for the newly planted trees have come up at recent City Council meetings. Karwoski said the city is looking at adding more resources to bolster volunteer efforts as well as minimizing maintenance costs by planting different varieties of trees and natural grasses.

Tree legacy

Peter Graske, a former mayor of Oakdale, has been working on reforestation in the city for decades.

“Basically our city has been involved with trees for 30 some years,” Graske said.

“We’re probably number one in the area in planting trees in our city.”

Graske, who is 81, said he has noticed a slight increase in tree planting as the City Council and residents have gotten more involved. The formation of a Tree Board about a decade ago prompted the recent push in landscaping and planting around the city, he said.

The City Council’s liaison to Tree Board, Karwoski said the 11-year-old board has been instrumental in the projects and may create a long-term plan for planting trees in the city.

The City Council has been pursuing landscaping improvements independent of the Tree Board, Karwoski said, but their work complements the council’s initiatives.

The time is ripe for creating and improving natural areas, Karwoski said, because the city is running out of land to be developed. The city, which already has 26 parks, has turned toward redeveloping older areas.

“With development coming to a close, we have an opportunity to enhance areas in the city that we haven’t focused on before,” he said. “As development is coming to a close, we’re starting to enhance our natural areas.”

The tree-planting efforts are just beginning to have an impact, Rogstad said.

“Ten years from now there will be a difference, and 20 years from now it will be significant.”

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