The dead 4th St. trees downtown: after 15 months, they’re still dead

In June of 2011, I blogged about how the new trees planted in Nov. 2010 on 4th St. downtown after the 4th Street reconstruction had died or become diseased.  The plan back then was to cut them down and replace them in the spring.

They never got cut down and when I inquired last April about the progress on getting new ones put in, Sean Simonson, City of Northfield Engineering Tech Coordinator, referred me to a blurb he’d submitted to the Administrator’s Report:

Staff met with representatives from BCM Construction to discuss the replacement of the 19 Armstrong Maples on Fourth Street between Division Street and Washington Street.  Staff and BCM agreed that the trees were not properly maintained after they were planted, so replacement will be made at BCM’s cost. 

Staff has indicated that they would like the replacement to happen this spring so the trees have a chance to establish before they go into winter dormancy.  Notice will be sent out when this work is to take place.  Residents can expect parking closures for a few days while this work is being completed.

dead trees on 4th St, Northfield dead trees on 4th St, Northfield dead trees on 4th St, Northfield 
Spring has come and gone. A few trees have leaves but the dead ones are still there, sticking out like a sore thumb at the most prominent intersection of downtown Northfield.


  1. Phil Poyner said:

    The parrot is ALSO still no more! He has ceased to be! ‘E’s expired and gone to meet ‘is maker! ‘E’s a stiff! Bereft of life, ‘e rests in peace! If you hadn’t nailed ‘im to the perch ‘e’d be pushing up the daisies! ‘Is metabolic processes are now ‘istory! ‘E’s off the twig! ‘E’s kicked the bucket, ‘e’s shuffled off ‘is mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin’ choir invisible!!

    It’s always a good day for Monty Python references!

    June 27, 2012
  2. Tracy Davis said:

    Thanks for following up on this, Griff. I mentioned it on my radio show last night (and also linked to this post in the show notes.)

    June 28, 2012
  3. Griff Wigley said:

    Councilor Betsey Buckheit alerted Joe Stapf, Director of Public Works/City Engineer, to my blog post. He replied to her yesterday:

    Please tell him to keep agitating. We have yet another meeting with the contractor tomorrow morning at 8:00 am on site. The prime (BCM) is cooperating, but his landscaping sub is not, so any media embarrassment we can pile on will help, I believe. I expect the dead ones will be coming down soon. Replacements may be planted in the fall, but more likely in the spring.

    We are still holding back about $20,000, plus the normal warranty on the entire project has not yet begin to run. That’s why the prime contractor wants to wrap this up. The sub is arguing the type of trees originally planted are wrong, that the salt and hostile environment killed them, etc., etc….We have documented his failure to maintain (water) them properly through the required establishment period. His argument doesn’t hold water, pun intended.

    I then wrote to Joe, sending him links to some of my previous blog posts and photos, as did Ross Currier, NDDC.

    Joe wrote back this morning with this summary and gave me permission to post it here:

    Things went well enough this morning. There was agreement (finally) that the dead trees would be cut down by the landscaping subcontractor before the 4th (and perhaps within the next day or two), and BCM (the prime contractor) will make sure the holes left (if any) will be filled in such that there is no trip hazard.

    The remaining trees that appear salvageable will be given some intense maintenance attention throughout the remainder of the summer into the fall, and as they approach dormancy this fall, we will all reevaluate them to see if they can stay, or if they should be removed and replaced. All replacements will be planted next spring and maintained to get them through the establishment period.

    The subcontractor’s position is that these trees could not reasonably be expected to survive in that comparatively hostile environment, what with salt for deicing, snow-plowing up against the trees, and the overabundance of impervious surface precluding them benefiting from any rainfall, or snowmelt. Our position is that conditions were obvious at the time of bidding, and there was never any “documentable” maintenance effort on his part, and therefore he did not fulfill his contractual obligation.

    Therefore, regardless of how inhospitable the area is, the trees need to be replaced and given a fair chance at survival. Interestingly enough, a few of the trees have made it into their second season, despite the inhospitable environment. I believe that a little TLC by the subcontractor would have had a very different result.

    All we can do, now, is wait and see how things play out.

    June 28, 2012
  4. kiffi summa said:

    A BIG THANK YOU to our new City Engineer, Joe Stapf…

    This is the sort of city employee that makes you feel the concerns of residents are in ‘good hands’, as opposed to adversarial power positioning.

    He has a lot of situations to catch up on; things that were left unresolved previously, so that is a daunting workload. His great attitude will draw more unresolved problems to his office for resolution; I have complete faith in him resolving problems with fairness and to the full extent that his resources allow.

    June 29, 2012
  5. Griff Wigley said:

    Progress! The dead trees on 4th St have been removed. 7 remain:

    July 23, 2012
  6. kiffi summa said:

    When parking outside the Rare Pair the other day ( a great place to Santa-shop, by the way) I noticed that some of the tree grates that used to have trees that subsequently died, now have the centers filled with concrete…

    Does this mean that those trees were not replaced by the landscape firm that planted them, nor by the city?

    So that streetscape, which was meant to grow itself into a shady corridor, is sort of a hapazard, spotty vista instead of the planned corridor?

    You’ve followed this, Griff… What’s up?

    December 6, 2012
  7. Ross Currier said:

    Kiffi –

    When I saw the concrete, I followed up with Joe Stapf. Apparently someone tripped on one of the treeless holes and the concrete plugs are temporary fix until a next Spring.

    December 6, 2012
  8. Griff Wigley said:

    Kiffi, see comment #4 above with an explanation from Joe Stapf. The holes were temporarily filled so as not to be a trip hazard. Trees will be put in there in the spring.

    December 6, 2012
  9. kiffi summa said:

    Great … should have known we could rely on Mr. Stapf to fix things.

    December 6, 2012