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Mpls. Officials Seek to Remove 'Tree Coffins' to Promote Urban Greenery

Updated: 06/15/2014 10:46 PM
Created: 06/15/2014 8:30 PM KSTP.com
By: Stephen Tellier

The city of Minneapolis wants to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars getting rid of "tree coffins." That begs the question: What is a tree coffin?

Tree coffins effectively keep trees cooped up and caged in until they kick the can. You see them all the time, not just in Minneapolis, but in most urban areas: Trees that take up a small portion of a sidewalk, surrounded by pavement on all sides. Often, those confined spaces cause a tree to die because it doesn't have enough room to spread its roots out.

Minneapolis officials say the city can do better. Some newer trees, like those planted near Marquette Ave. and Washington Ave. in downtown Minneapolis, may look unremarkable. But the bases are set a couple feet below the pavement, where a special mixture both supports the sidewalk and gives the trees more room to spread their roots, potentially allowing even city trees to grow for decades.

"I think that is a great idea," said Noel Mullen.

City officials want to spend about $400,000 to tear up many of the old tree coffins and put in the new design. Not everyone is a fan.

"It's just going to be more inconvenience for people and a whole ton of bucks," said Linda Lee Soderstrom.

She said she's all for urban green space, but not when it costs that much green.

"I wouldn't spend $400,000 on something new when this is gorgeous. I understand there's a problem here, but I would solve it a different way," Soderstrom said.

The $400,000 was part of a previous budget, so the money is already available -- it just hasn't been spent yet. But the issue is coming before a city council committee on Monday afternoon.


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