Tree Steward Training

In partnership with the University of Minnesota and the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, Volunteer Tree Stewards are learning how to care for saplings planted in tubes and perform data collection. Learn more about this project in our previous post University Nursery Reared Saplings Planted at Nokomis.

Training session participants were given a brief background on the tube tree planting method and its benefits, then were walked through the maintenance tasks to be performed by stewards, in addition to data collection. Before checking on the tree, the encroaching turf and weeds were pulled back to prepare for application of new woodchips.

The first disassembled tube appeared to be entirely colonized by weedy invaders…
But at the base of the stake, the white oak (progeny of a Theodore Wirth Heritage Tree) sapling was found! Stunted, but surviving. Removing the other plants that have started to grow in the tube frees up nutrients for the sapling and eliminates shading of the sapling’s leaves.
This sapling was doing much better, as weed growth in the tube was minimal, however the turf had encroached and thus the mowers were mowing closer to the tubes, pushing the mulch against the base and crushing the tube- crowding the tree and reducing airflow making the sapling more susceptible to disease.

Proper replacement of the tubes leaves the top of the leaves facing the sun for photosynthesis to occur.

Proper mulching (minimal mulch at the base of the tube with a berm around it- looks like a cone volcano) prevents competition with grasses, eases watering, and helps retain moisture in the soil to promote growth of the sapling.

Park Commissioner and FLN Board Member, Steffanie Musich, gets some pointers on securing tube nets from U of M researcher Chad Giblin. The nets dissuade birds from flying into the tubes and becoming trapped.

The next tree steward training session is scheduled for Wednesday September 30, 2015 at 6:30pm. Meet by the large pile of woodchips between the biking at walking trails across the parkway from the stairs at 52nd.

tree stewardsLast fall white flags and then white poles started popping up throughout the park and some now have leaves growing out the top of the tube.

These poles are young tree saplings protected by a tube that are part of a research partnership between the University of Minnesota Department of Forest Resources and the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board and part of the board’s ongoing efforts to diversify the urban forest. Some of the trees planted were propagated from Minneapolis Heritage Trees at the U of M tree nursery, and others a unique species that we are unable to typically obtain from commercial nurseries.

The tubes, while awkward looking in the landscape, serve several important functions in helping these trees be successful.

• The tubes protect the saplings from grazing by animals.

• The tubes function as a mini-greenhouse, encouraging straight growth with fewer low branches as well as encourages a strong central leader.

• The tubes are very visible to park users and equipment operators so the saplings are less likely to be stepped on or cut down during routine mowing and park use.

Here’s a list of the trees planted in the parks via this method:Tube Trees
American Mountain Ash
American Sycamore
Bitternut Hickory
Bur Oak
Crimson Sunset Maple
Disease Resistant Elms (multiple types)
English Oak
Horse Chestnut*
London Planetree
Pin Oak
Scholar Tree*
White Oak*

*Progeny of a Heritage Tree, trees that have been determined to be very large, very old, and/or are an important part of our history or culture in the city.

In partnership with the University of Minnesota research team and the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board the Friends of Lake Nokomis is helping to coordinate a Community Science Project with the tube trees planted in the park.

Two educational training sessions have been scheduled with Chad Giblin from the University of Minnesota Department of Forestry Resources:

16 September at 5pm

30 September at 6:30pm

Each session will follow the same format; a high level overview of the project followed by training on how to care for the trees and collect data. Anyone can attend the educational training sessions, individuals interested in participating should be able to check on the trees monthly during the growing season and during the winter months on an ad-hoc basis to ensure the tubes and net coverings remain in place. This project will be an ongoing, multi-year collaboration that will continue until the trees are of a size that allows for their maintenance to be transferred to the MPRB Forestry Department.

Examples of maintenance participants will perform in addition to data collection:
(1) Weed around grow tubes. Keeping a 3ft diameter circle that’s vegetation-free and mulched will help the tree by reducing competition and help the maintenance workers by allowing them more berth with the mowers
(2) During dry spells each tree would really benefit from one or two buckets of water each week

(3) Pull deep mulch away from tubes to avoid the closure of the bottom. Mowers sometimes push mulch up against the bottom of the tube and can close the opening causing problems with the base of the tree.

This project is an excellent opportunity for neighbors of the park and their families to nurture the urban forest for future generations of Minneapolitans and we hope you’ll join us in this endeavor!

Questions about the project should be directed to Park Commissioner Steffanie Musich: smusich@minneapolisparks.org or 612-230-6443 x5.

  In the month of February, MPRB Forestry crews removed a portion of the ash trees within the park (marked with green paint) as part of the Emerald Ash Borer driven Ash Canopy Replacement Plan in addition to trees that died as a result of storm damage, flood water immersion or disease (marked with orange paint). 70+ Ash were removed and 225 other species of tree were removed. Stump grinding for the removed trees will be done when the weather cooperates throughout the spring and summer. This spring, additional trees that succumbed to disease as a result of flood induced stress were marked for removal. Smaller trees were removed Friday, larger trees that require bucket trucks will be removed later this summer.

Replacement trees were planted this year, primarily during the month of May. Ralph Sievert, director of the MPRB’s Forestry department described the replanting as follows:

“Our plan is to replant each tree that was removed unless there are site / environmental constraints that prevent us from doing so.  The new trees will be composed of nearly 30 different genera, many of which do well in wet sites.  Some of those that tolerate wet conditions include Larch, Elms, Planetrees, River Birch, Baldcypress, Alder, Bicolor Oak, Aspen / Poplars & Honeylocusts.”

Some of you may have noticed that trees in this list are the same trees that died during last year’s lengthy flooding event. Trees that tolerate wet conditions will still succumb to flooding if these trees do not experience extreme moisture during their development and establishment; which means that even these new trees may die in future extremely wet years if we do not consistently experience wet springs. The park board’s diversification of trees helps to ensure that a stressor or disease that may kill some types of trees doesn’t completely wipe out the urban forest.

You can learn more about our urban forest on the park board’s new website. You can help the forest’s new additions be successful by helping water boulevard trees and get a free beverage and warm fuzzy in exchange – there is a new effort championed by resident Minneapolis foresters called Brewing a Better Forest that is trying to get every new tree planted adopted for watering. This year the MPRB will be planting 8,500 new trees with a significant portion of those being boulevard trees. Trees younger than five years old need one inch of rainfall each week to stay healthy. If there is not enough rain you should water your trees, including any you have adopted ; ). A proper watering involves slowly pouring at least four five-gallon buckets of water over the tree roots, or putting a hose under the tree and letting it run gently for one hour.

Feeding Waterfowl, particularly near the beach. . .

  • Increases opportunity for bacteria transfer to people
  • Increases opportunity for pathogen transfer to people
  • Pollutes the lake
  • Makes the birds unhealthy

DuckGiving food to ducks and geese (waterfowl) can create many problems for birds and the environment, and both the Friends of Lake Nokomis and Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board strongly discourage it. The notion that waterfowl cannot survive without human intervention is false. Ducks and geese have survived for thousands of years without handouts and will continue to do so if left alone. Feeding attracts large concentrations of waterfowl to areas that can’t naturally support such numbers. Left on their own, ducks and geese will occupy areas that provide sufficient natural food. As they deplete food in one location, they fly to new feeding areas, often miles away, decreasing the environmental impact they have on our park and lake.

First and foremost, feeding waterfowl results in increased deposits of fecal matter which can effect water quality and compromise human health. Birds crowded into areas where people are feeding them are often defecating in the same location. An adult Canada Goose deposits one pound of feces per day and like ducks is a carrier of E.coli bacteria and other pathogens (including the parasite that causes swimmer’s itch) that can affect humans. Children in particular often come into contact with droppings left on the surrounding landscape and via the water in swimming areas.

Artificial feeding encourages unnaturally large flocks to gather in one place where the competition for food can cause unnecessary stress.  This stress can weaken the birds and cause them to be more susceptible to disease. The competition for food provided by park visitors causes the birds to become aggressive and unafraid of people causing conflict between park users and the birds. Last summer, several users contacted the MPRB to report ducks attacking their children on the beach while they were eating snacks. Do not contribute to this problem by feeding the ducks.

If the environmental and human comfort impacts are not enough to convince you to not feed the waterfowl in the park, let me share the impacts on the birds themselves. Feeding bread, crackers, popcorn, fries and other foods high in starch and low in nutritional quality can lead to disease and malnutrition in wild birds as they will stop eating their natural diet of worms, insects, seeds and small plants. Artificial feeding may allow frail birds to survive, reproduce, and diminish the species as a whole as they do not need to be able to find their own nourishment.

Please don’t feed the ducks and ask others to do the same!

*or the geese

Theodore Wirth describes the park in his history of the park system as follows: “Although Lake Nokomis (408 acres in area) was purchased in 1907 (for the small sum of $65,000), the improvement work did not begin until the spring of 1914. The area acquired consisted of about 300 acres of shallow water known as Lake Amelia, about 70 acres of mostly low swampy farmland at the northwest corner, and about 38 acres of higher dry land at its northeast corner [where the Recreation Center sits now], as well as a small strip along the south boundary. The improvement plan contemplated reducing the water area from 300 to 200 acres (the minimum depth of the lake to be not less than eight feet and the low lands to be filled to well above the lake level), and increasing the total land area from 108 to 208 acres. Estimated dredging operations amounted to between 2,000,000 and 2,500,000 cubic yards.”

In May of 1914, the Northern Dredge and Dock Company of Duluth began work to remove 2,460,978 cubic yards of sand and soil from what was then a shallow 300 acre water body known locally as Lake Amelia. A dyke was built in the northwest corner of the park and dredging continued until December of 1918. The park board’s improvement plan called for the minimum depth of this new 200 acre lake to be 8 feet and for the dredge material to be used to fill in the surrounding swampy lowlands to well above water level.


As pockets of sand were found during the project they were used to create the beach currently known as the Main Beach and to provide a base for the roads being built to the site and under the bath house, also resulting in deeper pockets of water.

The fill eventually increased the usable park land by 100 acres, nearly doubling available land for development. The land that was filled in, is in some places still settling and may continue to do so for decades. Wirth speculated that it may never fully settle “Dredge fills on swampland, as it is well known, take many years to settle to a final or permanent elevation—and in fact our experience with them leads me to doubt that they ever do come to a complete standstill.”

It can take a century or longer for dredged water bodies to begin functioning like a naturally occurring lakes. As part of the master planning process currently underway, Nokomis was analyzed to see if it was still stabilizing. The water quality consultant from EOR (Emmons and Olivier Resources, Inc.), has determined that Nokomis has finished its transitional period and is now functioning like a natural lake.

Northern Flying Squirrels

Those creatures you see flying over you just at the edge of your peripheral vision may not be what you think they are.  The size of a chipmunk, northern flying squirrels (Glaucomys sabrinus) have the ability to glide short distances–up to 150 feet! They have a small flap of skin running from their fore to hind legs and when stretched taught, this skin allows them to glide through the air. Typical glides will consist of distances between 20-30 feet.

Friends of Lake Nokomis member, Ron Buhta first observed these curious little furballs at his birdfeeder in December,  “Because they are nocturnal, not many people are aware they are even around.”  He snapped some photos (included below for your amusement) and started researching. Finding the DNR’s reference materials on the state’s mammals a great tool for sleuthing out who the visitors to his bird-feeder were.  While Ron lives a few blocks from the lake, flying squirrels have also been spotted gliding between trees in the park.

Next time you’re out for a stroll after dark, keep an eye out for our little furry flying friends.

Patio at Sandcastle

Image courtesy of Locus Architecture

Image courtesy of Locus Architecture

This spring, visitors to Lake Nokomis will get to enjoy some upgrades to the patio and covered seating area next to Sandcastle  that the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) has planned with the help of Locus Architecture, the same firm that designed the remodel of the refectory building.  The improvements are being done to provide a patio and pavilion at the site, as requested by the Community Advisory Committee to provide a similar dining experience to what visitors enjoy at other popular park concession areas, such as Sea Salt and Tin Fish.  Restrooms are being modified to improve accessibility.  Another key piece of the site improvement plan is to reroute the walking path to improve traffic flow around the concession for runners and pedestrians not visiting Sandcastle.

“I’m really looking forward to experiencing the seating area that Locus has designed to complement their remodel of the refectory building. The first season was terrific, and I’m glad that Sandcastle and the public had an opportunity to provide feedback to the design team about what they’d like to see at the site after they’d used it for a season.”Steffanie Musich~ MPRB Commissioner District 5.

The design reflects the desire of many visitors to have more seating with views of the lake and the beach, and to preserve the shade provided by the surrounding trees as well as the vegetative buffer between developed space and the water.  Residents should note that these improvements do not replace the Master Planning process for the park which is due to get underway in 2014.

Lake Nokomis is getting a shade canopy built from a solar array that will plug into the meter at the beach house during the 2014 season. The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board has recently been selected by Xcel Energy to receive funding for seven solar energy projects, of which, the shade structure at Nokomis is one. The project coincides with other efficiency upgrades being done throughout the park system as part of broader sustainably initiatives the MPRB is working on.

Shade Structure

Ebenezer Hodsdon and his family moved to Minnesota from Maine in 1852 hoping to buy land in the Minnesota territory, lured by an enticingly worded ad in the Augusta Maine newspaper “Come to Minnesota Territory. The climate is as warm as California, cattle can graze all winter.”  The twenty something couple and their three young children gave away their warm clothing and wool blankets and booked transport to St. Paul.

They settled first in St. Anthony, eventually buying a farm near Bloomington Avenue and Lake Street, but having been a seafaring man for much of his youth, Ebenezer wanted to live closer to the water. He started a search for a farm with water.  Not long after he started looking he encountered a young man with a fine string of fish in the post office that told him he’d caught them in Lake Amelia, and that a man had a big farm for sale right on the south shore of the lake.

Ebenezer bought the 94 acre farm, and hired a man to help clear it. He raised cranberries, strawberries,  plums and apples, and would catch fish and ducks for sale to downtown restaurants.  His love of the water led him to build the first sailboat on the lake, and after the advent of horsecars he found himself building additional boats for hire to the visitors from the city.

In his later years, after the bicycle began gaining popularity as a mode of transportation, Ebenezer became quite the bicycle enthusiast; building a cinder trail around Lake Amelia to practice his bicycling on one summer in his late seventies.  His practicing paid off, when he won a bicycle race at Lake Harriet against a much younger group of cyclists, including his grandson.

Ebenezer Hodsdon with his bicycle.

Ebenezer Hodsdon with his bicycle.

In 1907, he sold a wide strip of his farmland to the park board to complete the boulevard system around the lake and widen the road.  After he signed the deed, his lawyer said to him, “Congratulations, Mr. Hodsdon. You will be remembered as the last man to own a farm on a city lake.”

This has been just a tiny taste of the life story of Ebenezer Hodsdon, his granddaughter Beatrice Morosco wrote a lovely account of her grandfather and how he came to be one of the pioneers to establish the city of Minneapolis in her book: The Restless Ones, A Family History.


Two of the majestic oak trees adorning the hillside leading down from Woodlawn Boulevard into the park on the far south end of the park have been confirmed to have oak wilt. The damage to the trees observed by the MPRB’s arborists is assumed to have occurred in June’s violent storms. The trees that tested positive for the fungus Ceratocystis fagacearum are being removed in hope of preventing the spread of the disease to neighboring trees.  Trenches are also being dug in the spring to separate the roots of healthy trees from the diseased ones.

The fungus infects oak tree’s water carrying cells, preventing water and nutrients from travelling from the roots to the crown of the tree.  This process is what causes the wilting of the infected tree and eventually its death.  The fungus spreads through root grafts under the soil (in closely spaced trees, such as occur on this hillside and via sap feeding beetles which carry the fungal spores from infected to healthy trees.

The removal and trench line method of containment for oak wilt has been utilized successfully in the park before (near 50th street and the parkway) and we hope for the same success this time.  Replanting will not be done, both because it is not recommended to replant oaks where wilt has been confirmed, and because of the area’s designation as a natural area.  Natural areas are minimally managed by park staff, and are left to be replanted by mother nature and the squirrels when trees die or are removed due to disease.

More information about diseases of oak trees, including oak wilt can be found on the University of Minnesota’s Extension website: http://www1.extension.umn.edu/environment/trees-woodlands/oak-wilt-or-anthracnose/

OAk wilt location