Ideas for replacement of the downtown trees were presented at a meeting of the Manawa Common Council on Wednesday, April 22.
“Trees add a lot to our downtown area,” said Mike Frazier, chair of the city’s Improvements and Services Committee. “We need to avoid the problems we had several years ago.”
Invited to the meeting were members of the Manawa Area Chamber of Commerce, the Manawa Revitalization Committee and anyone who expressed an interest.
According to Frazier, the tree roots are starting to ruin the sidewalk and one tree has already died.
Mayor John Smith said the 12 trees were planted about 14 years ago when the highway was reconstructed.
A list of the best types of trees for the downtown area was presented by Erica Kleibrink, horticulturalist and landscape architect at Silver Mist Garden Center in Waupaca.
Some type of trees she recommended were Ginko, Honey Locust, Hackberry, Hawthorne and Mountain Ash.
All of those trees are described as decorative, cost about the same ($100 to $150 each) and can survive in this area.
Frazier asked which of those trees were the most popular for city streets.
Dinko, Honey Locust and Kentucky Coffee Tree are the most popular, according to Kleibrink. But she noted that the coffee tree is a bit messier.
“Do we want all the same trees or a variety?” asked Judy Trull, representing the Chamber and Revitalization Committee.
“It is better to have diversity,” said Kleibrink.
She suggested planting two or three different varieties to reduce the chance of disease and insect infestations.
Smith asked if there were any shrubs that would work.
“Yes, but they are not usually a street tree,” Kleibrink said.
Some short trees/large shrubs that could work are the Dappled Willow, Smoke Bushes (if trimmed as a tree) and Magnolias.
Ronda Mollica, representing the Revitalization Committee, asked if small trees or shrubs could be planted in pots instead of in the ground.
“Not really,” Kleibrink said. “It doesn’t work very well in Wisconsin.”
She explained that, while the ground stays a constant temperature, in a pot, the plant would be exposed to freezing.
According to Kleibrink, Manawa’s downtown trees are having problems because of compacted soil around their roots.
“Only in the last seven years have people started to understand about the effects of compacted soil on trees,” she said.
Kleibrink suggested ways to provide a better foundation for tree planting by using the right type of soil and having enough room for the roots to expand and receive nutrients.
“The drip line of trees – the width of the branches – is where most of the key roots are located,” she said.
Kleibrink suggested replacing the soil about six feet down (or even sideways) with a mix of gravel, sand and clay.
“Then what is the success rate of the trees not damaging our sidewalks again?” Smith asked.
Kleibrink noted that other cities are having success by using the right soil mixture for trees. She estimated there should be a success rate of about 75-80 percent.
Smith said the downtown sidewalks are wide enough to provide room for the soil mixture.
Kleibrink also provided tips on what size tree to plant.
The best way to determine size is by the diameter of the trunk, she said. She recommended planting trees that are about two to three inches in diameter at breast height.
“It’s good not to plant them too large to avoid transplant shock,” she said. This occurs when the tree’s canopy is too large for its root system.
Kleibrink said the key factors to successful tree planting include protecting the soil, giving ample room for the roots and selecting the right variety.
The trees can be planted in the spring or fall, but should have about four weeks of watering twice weekly.
Trull asked if the tree information being provided meant that artwork was no longer in the plan for decorating the downtown area.
“We can look at doing both because that would add to our downtown,” Frazier said.
Kleibrink said it would be nice to have some benches and other objects, but it should be planned.
She offered to draw up plans and do some research for the project. The cost would be about $25 per hour, for an estimated 100 hours of work.
Smith said first he needs to contact the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to see what information they need to approve the project.
“When the trees first went in, it was the DOT’s project,” Smith said.
He said the city of Manawa has about $1,400 designated for the tree replacement project. The removal and planting of the trees would be covered by the Department of Public Works budget.
There also may be some grant money available, said Amy Starr, of Crosscut Greenhouse.
Mollica requested that Manawa become a Tree City USA. She said there are four standards required.
The city would need:
• A tree board.
• An ordinance.
• A budget of $2 per capita (about $2,400).
• An Arbor Day proclamation by the mayor.
Frazier agreed to present the Tree City idea to his committee for possible recommendation to the council.