Tree sale highlights importance of protecting land from erosionAfter a flood that washed out yards, streambanks and public spaces throughout Duluth, Judy Gibbs is hoping residents will get serious about planting trees this spring.
After a flood that washed out yards, streambanks and public spaces throughout Duluth, Judy Gibbs is hoping residents will get serious about planting trees this spring.
“There’s an old saying: ‘The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is now,’” said Gibbs, who is the trees and trails coordinator for the city of Duluth’s Parks and Recreation Department. “All tree planting helps.”
Following last June’s flood, officials say there is a major need for native trees and plants in the Northland. The damage is still visible in places.
“Tree roots have been stripped bare and there’s just a lot of damage to trees along streams,” Gibbs said. “Folks can really help out by planting on their property, especially if they have a stream nearby.”
The South St. Louis County Soil and Water Conservation District’s is taking orders for its tree and shrub sale. The sale is an annual tradition for agency, but this year may be bigger than ever.
“People got an eye-opener of what happens when water goes down terrain without land to hold it in place (during the flood),” said Lisa McKhann, project assistant for the South St. Louis Soil and Water Conservation District. “Native, deep-rooted plants are the best because they have the least amount of concern for maintaining.”
The agency is taking orders for the sale through April 12. The sale features 31 native plants, which come in bundles of 10 or 25. The plants will available to pick up in Proctor, Two Harbors and Grand Marais in mid-May. Anybody is welcome to purchase plants, not just residents of Duluth and the North Shore.
The conservation district will be selling bare root seedlings, which McKhann said residents should plan to promptly plant when they receive them in May.
Home and business areas who had grassy areas washed out during the flood might should strongly consider planting trees, McKhann said.
“It helps for next time,” she said. “We have all kinds of projects come through our office, but virtually all of them end with some kind of planting. It’s the best natural buffer to keep soil in place.”
Native plants are not only easier to maintain, but they also have deep roots and grow quickly, making them ideal for flood protection, McKhann said. Deep roots keep the soil from eroding and being swept away during periods of heavy rainfall and snowmelt.
“Native species are great for wildlife. They have berries that can feed critters and provide shelter for them. There are additional benefits besides erosion control,” she said. “Aside from maybe deer protection, they require very little ongoing maintenance: no pesticide, no herbicide. They will just flourish because (the environment) is what they like.”
Ever since the flood, much of the work for the South St. Louis SWCD, a governmental and political subdivision of the state of Minnesota, has focused on flood recovery. The agency primarily serves south St. Louis County, but it also offers some services to areas outside St. Louis County.
“We’re heavily involved in ongoing flood recovery,” said district manager R.C. Boheim. “The tree and shrub sale is a separate thing we do every year, but pretty much everything we do now is somehow tied in with flood recovery.”
The agency has also received two flood relief governmental grants, totaling about $4.5 million. The funds will be used to help compensate residents for erosion-related expenses resulting from the flood.