Steps to clear an invasive plant from the city came under discussion by the City of Menomonie council at its meeting Monday.
A motion was approved to draft an ordinance for the removal of Amur cork trees within the city.
The cork trees are found in eight Wisconsin counties, but Menomonie is the only in the west-central part of the state to have the invasive tree, Chris Gaetzke with the Lower Chippewa Invasives Partnership said.
Gaetzke said the tree was placed on the state prohibited tree list in 2015, and the cork tree may not be transported or used in any way that would spread the growth of the trees.
The cork tree was introduced as a fast-growing shade tree, which can grow up to 6 feet a year, Gaetzke said. The issues with the tree is that is a allelopathic plant that produces a chemical that slows the growth of surrounding plants. This is done through the roots and when the leaves drop, Gaetzke said.
The Urban Forestry Board suggested the tree be identified as a public nuisance, Public Works Director Randy Eide said. This would allow for the city to mark trees on private property and let the property owners know that the tree must be removed or it will be removed by the city and the landowner with be charged.
Council member Eric Sutherland said he thinks council members should move forward in the process, but he’s concerned about forcing private landowners into paying for the removal of the trees.
“If the property owner gets notified by the city or whoever that these trees need to be removed, it could become a significant cost to the landowner,” Sutherland said.
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Currently trees diseased by oak wilt, emerald ash borer and diseased elm trees are on the nuisance list, Eide said.
Citizen Judy Zimmerman in public comments said the concern should be about protecting the slower-growing native hardwood trees. She said city must avoid being “heavy-handed” but work with the residents to remove the issue. Zimmerman said taking away the privacy that the trees provide for residents needs to be a concern.
There has to be a level of sensitivity, Eide said, as the cork tree may the only form of shade on a homeowners property and this situation is different than other listed nuisance plants.
“These are trees that are alive. The other trees on the list are diseased tree ...”” Eide said. “You taking down an invasive tree, but it is a healthy tree.”
Only the female cork trees produce the seed and are regulated by the state Gaetzke said. The female trees won’t produce berries until they are 5 of 5 years old when they will flower in early summer.
Legal counsel will draft an ordinance that will be brought before the council over the next few months.
The next city council meeting is schedule for Nov. 4 at the city council chambers at the Dunn County Government Center.