City’s vague tree-pruning explanation creates uneasy residents

By Catherine Stoch, Guest Columnist

I write to express my concern related to the recent tree cutting and “pruning” by the city of Little Falls that occurred and is occurring in many sections of the city. I raised my concerns, with vague explanations from city representatives such as this cutting/pruning is being done for “safety reasons” at intersections.

Since I watched the city crew, with one worker in the bucket 25-30 feet up, cutting mid-block nowhere near an intersection, this explanation is off base. If, as has been explained, this is done so that vehicles can safely pass without hitting them, please show me any vehicle in this town that is 25-30 feet high.

To couch its explanations as “safety issues” is not forthright, for if that were true, then trees would be monitored and cut annually in a method that was respectful to both the property owner and to the tree itself. Yet this is not at all the case.

Since work is not conducted in partnership with any authority on proper technique (the city has no certified arborist), the damage to trees on private property can be long-lasting and can become a future problem to a homeowner where none would have been. That the city provides no notification to its residents about an activity that impacts private property, while not illegal, is a strangely out-of-touch way to conduct business.

Yes, the city can and does do what it wishes, exclaiming and clinging to its argument that it is within its legal right to do so.

This argument might not matter if the damage done by the city remained confined to the part of the tree on the city’s self-proclaimed right of way, but, of course, the damage and ugliness left by its improper pruning extends to the whole tree, and ultimately to a homeowner’s property.

Sadder still, the city is erroneously sending its crews out assuming that this time of year is OK, yet according to the Minnesota Department of Resources,, pruning in early winter can lead to winter injury, and they recommend late winter months, February and March, as the safest time. Doing so earlier leaves pruning wounds that may not have time to “harden off” or prepare for winter. This can lead to deeper freezing in the tissues around the wound and in essence a larger wound can be created that the tree will have difficulty dealing with.

This recent and rampant pruning opens trees all around town to be exposed to disease and promote die-off, an irresponsible thing to do when trees are already subjected to a host of diseases including Dutch elm, emerald ash borer, winter injury of blue spruce (Morrison County was one of the two hardest hit counties in 2008), and potential for a host of problems associated with the recent drought and lack of much-needed snow cover.

I wholly agree that a city has responsibilities to do what it can to keep its citizens and visitors safe. I agree that a city must be one where economics are in balance, money is allocated well, where jobs are good.

But I would put before you that people choose to live in cities for reasons beyond that — for the beauty that a city presents — its trees, its parks and overall landscape. If this were not the case, we’d all live on the pavement, which we don’t.

This recent recklessness, lathered up in “safety” is one I hope the city will reconsider before further ruin. Home-owners should be concerned at the city’s lack of care and communication with them in a matter that affects their property and has potentially devastating consequences.


Catherine A. Stoch is a resident of the city of Little Falls