Bridge Square’s stately cottonwood trees taken down

 cottonwood tree cottonwood tree
Workers from H & H Tree Service in Dundas were taking down the big cottonwoods today, the ones adjacent to the Ames Mill dam on Bridge Square. I took the photo on the left at about 11 am and the one on the right about 4 pm, so I’m not sure if they finished.

I know one of the trees was dying, as I noticed it when I took the photo of the cormorant back in July. I’m not sure why they all had to be taken down, though. It’s too bad. I’ll miss them.


  1. kiffi summa said:

    These trees, the one by the Key, and the one by the farmer’s market were the last of the corridor of cottonwoods that lined the river in the original town setting.
    IF these trees were taken down in preparation for the not yet approved re-do of the area between Bridge Square and the 5th/Water st. intersection; it seems terribly premature.
    We strive to create streetscapes which have an appropriate historic “feel”, while at the same time we destroy the existing authenticity. Seeing trees of that magnificence in a downtown setting is not replaceable by any amount of colored concrete, colored posts or fences, or any other false “historicity”.
    I am very sorry to lose them; it would take 150 years to replace them.

    October 31, 2007
  2. Robbie Wigley said:

    I absolutely agree with you Kiffi. We seem to be quite cavalier about the old historic trees in the area. Woodley would be another example. Why not work around them and include them in the design.

    I was glad to see some of he new sidewalks on the east side curved around the stately old trees. I can understand the removal of dead or dying trees, but it seemed that at least a couple of the cottonwoods were healthy.


    November 1, 2007
  3. Though we haven’t been here for thirty years or more, I felt like old friends had
    suddenly passed away. Thanks for not letting me go there and become shocked on the spot.

    Maybe we should have a memorial for them.

    November 1, 2007
  4. kiffi summa said:

    They finished removing the last portion of the big cottonwood’s base today(fittingly for this website, a triumvirate) and I must admit I got into it with a worker from the tree removal company, who called me a “tree-hugger”, in a somewhat disdainful tone, and who she said she loved trees more than I did because she is an arborist. I found that a questionable distinction, but the most disturbing thing was the rationale for removing that tree was that it was a “hazard tree”. i.e., falling limbs could be dangerous to people, etc.
    I know the one dead portion, where the cormorant would sit to watch for fish, hung over the river, on the southwest side, so that’s not a threat to people, and in the five foot high portions of the trunk remaining there was zero decay; even in the big part lying on the ground there was a tiny half-inch dark spot in the center …at which “the arborist” pointed and said “see!”
    But she had also just said that one third of the trunk would have to be rotten for it to be even at risk of falling.
    I don’t think of myself as a “tree hugger”; I am very saddened by the loss of this piece of the original town plantings. This was an icon that can’t be replaced.
    I would even question that since the downtown is a registered National Trust Historic District, that tree was a protected visual aspect of the downtown, and someone should have at least thought about just pruning the one dead section rather than cutting down the whole tree which showed no signs of decay elsewhere.

    November 7, 2007
  5. Jane McWilliams said:

    It is hard to see those venerable trees go down, isn’t it? I wish the city had notified the public so that we’d know why they decided they had to be removed. According to the reading I’ve done, cottonwoods can be very dangerous when they become damaged by insects and old age. Perhaps the city took them down for safety’s sake. It is so expensive to remove trees, I can’t believe the city is doing it for capricious reasons.

    November 7, 2007
  6. I think there are diagnostic tools that can be used to determine the solidity
    of tree trunks, and even equipment that can look deeply into the earth to
    map out roots and strength underground.

    November 7, 2007
  7. Jerry Bilek said:

    according to the streetscape consultant, the cottonwoods were dead or dying and deemed unsafe. the riverwalk plans actually show one of the trees on the plan. They had planned to work around the tree for the parking lot. now they might alter the plan to make the lot more accessible.

    November 7, 2007
  8. kiffi summa said:

    John Slack, the consultant for the design, said that he had specifically worked around the big cottonwood, as it was a irreplaceable visual icon in an old downtown. It was not in the parking area, but in the river edge area. the three major trunks, arising out of the singular original trunk showed ZERO decay, when the mayor and I looked at it yesterday.
    This plan has not even been approved by the council yet; the streetscape committee, some of them, have grave reservations, and yet the PROJECT moves inexorably forward, including cutting down a historic tree, in a historic district, which is, in itself, a violation of the district rules.

    November 8, 2007
  9. Jane McWilliams said:

    Here’s a response I received from Joel Walenski, city public works director:

    “The decision to remove the cottonwood was not taken lightly. In September of this year, a representative from Kunde Consultants – certified arborists and foresters – was hired by the City to inspect and inventory all the trees within the 5th Street and Water Street Parking Lot Reconstruction Project area. The cottonwood was identified as a hazard tree because of it’s poor health and because of the potential damage it could cause to human life and property should the tree fall. Once a tree has been identified as a hazard the City liability for the damage the tree would cause should it fall changes dramatically. The forester recommended we remove the tree regardless of whether the project proceeded and that we do it ASAP. We had two contracted tree service companies with certified arborists provide quotes on the tree removal, neither offered any alternative solutions. H&H tree service was hired for the removal. Just an FYI, the information regarding the health of the tree and the plans for removal was included in the Friday Memo to the Council in late September, this document is public and posted on the City web site, typically by the close of business on most Fridays.

    You are correct in identifying this tree as a tremendous asset to the City. The initial plans for the reconstruction of the Water Street Parking lot identified this tree and specific parts of the concept plan included mediation ideas for protecting the tree during the construction and afterwards. On the positive side, the project will include landscaping and additional tree planting on the east side of the river. In regards to public information, I have provided this information to the Northfield News and they maybe running a story on the tree this weekend. I hope this answers most of your initial questions, if you need more information please let me know”

    November 9, 2007
  10. kiffi summa said:

    I really appreciate Joel’s thorough and timely response.
    Regardless, When the mayor and i looked at the core of the tree there was no obvious decay that would indicate hazard/removal.
    The one dead branch portion could have been pruned off. The northern neighbor of the Key had a huge portion of the Key’s cottonwood taken off(because he feared damage to his building) and the tree is still alive, healthy, hasn’t suffered, in the ten years since that “pruning”.

    November 9, 2007
  11. Griff Wigley said:

    Thanks much for getting that info from city engineer Joel Walinksi, Jane.

    Joel wrote in his email to Jane:

    Just an FYI, the information regarding the health of the tree and the plans for removal was included in the Friday Memo to the Council in late September, this document is public and posted on the City web site, typically by the close of business on most Fridays.

    I did a search on the City’s $85,000 website for the term ‘cottonwoods’. I got:

    Sorry, no data matching the query “cottonwoods ” were found.

    I tried the singular, ‘cottonwood’

    You searched for “cottonwood “. To expand your search, include PDF files in search results.

    I selected that option/link. It found one PDF with the term in it, Chp 10 of the environmental protection plan. No mention of these cottonwoods, of course.

    I did a Google advanced search with this: cottonwood

    and found it in the Friday Memo for the week of September 24- 28, 2007. In it, Al Roder wrote:

    Additionally, staff received a report back from Kunde Tree Services. A species, health, and safety assessment was made of all trees within the project area. This information will be used in the development of the design and specification for the project. One item of note, the certified forester identified the large cottonwood tree located in the Water Street Parking lot as a safety hazard and recommended it’s removal ASAP. Staff will be working on having this tree removed in short order.

    November 9, 2007
  12. kiffi summa said:

    Griff has had constant questions about the city’s website, and how it functions…..
    This week’s Friday memo has remarks about the problems with the newly installed (and on this site, questioned) telephone system; you’ll have to look at the memo for accuracy, but I think it said the problem was bad enough that they had to go to a secondary backup system.
    What’s with all the “new” technology?

    When the Mayor and I were looking at the “corpse” of the cootonwood, the arborist said “these trees are supposed to be growing by rivers …”
    I said, “Well, don’t step back …”

    November 10, 2007
  13. John Thomas said:

    If it wasn’t for Griff’s “Deep Linking” into the City’s website… we would not have any information at all…

    I think the City should hire another consu… (oh here we go again). 😎

    I was downtown last night, and the loss of the trees is very signifigant. It now looks and feels so barren, like standing in the center of the Target parking lot.

    It just concerns me that the decision to do this was done so quickly by the city “for the public good” and “for our safety”.

    I would urge the city to install new trees into the plan for the 5th & Water street project. Trees that have room to thrive, not the little sticks that are poking out of a hole in the concrete. A park is supposed to be “greenspace”, not a square block of concrete and asphalt.

    Just my $0.02

    November 10, 2007

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