Residents furious over plan to level 160 trees for bike lanes and street upgrades

Residents along Cleveland Avenue in St. Paul say they were blindsided by Ramsey County’s plan to clear cut dozens of mature oaks along their scenic street to make way for bike lanes, a bike trail, sewer and street upgrades. Their online petition pleading with the county to hold off on the controversial project for environmental, not to mention aesthetic reasons, has attracted more than 740 supporters.

We’re asking county board leaders and engineers to take some time to consider the environmental impact of their plans. As climate change bears down on us all, we’re asking for time…to save the trees. 

Even the county proposal to include environmentally friendly bike lanes and replant some 70 trees along the currently shady street near the University of Minnesota St. Paul campus failed to cut it with petition supporters.

In the era of climate change, cutting down trees should be a crime. Start with the assumption that no trees can be cut down, then figure out the engineering. Ellad Tadmor

Cutting down healthy mature trees is just stupid in a time of accelerating climate change. These trees besides providing an exquisitely beautiful and human-friendly experience also trap TONS of hideous climate-changing carbon. Eleni Skevas

Opponents managed to convince the county to put the reconstruction project on hold for several weeks. But now time appears to be running out, according to KSTP-TV.

Marked in paint and ready for removal, the clock is ticking for more than 160 trees along Cleveland Avenue in St. Paul’s St. Anthony Park. It’s all a part of the Ramsey County’s Cleveland Avenue reconstruction project, but residents aren’t going to say goodbye without a fight. 

“There were supposed to be 56 trees removed and then all of a sudden on April 27 when they [Ramsey County] came out to mark the trees for removal and all of a sudden there were 167,” Pat Thompson with the St. Anthony Park Community Council said. She and a number of residents have been meeting with the county to provide their feedback. They’ve placed signs along the trees asking people to contact the county in an effort to save the trees. 

County officials say they tried to preserve as many trees as possible. But they made the call because of the extensive sewer and water systems work that needs to be done, as well as street improvements.

The plan currently is to create a two-lane road, in-street bike lane and an off-street trail for bikes and pedestrians. [Ramsey County director of public works Brian] Isaacson said safety is a huge consideration, especially with the proximity to the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul campus. 

“The road was originally built in 1948,” Isaacson said. “The last time we did any substantial work on the corridor was in 2010.” The sewer system predates the road and, at nearly 100 years old, is in need of upgrades.  

“It isn’t an option to do nothing,” Isaacson said, “I don’t think anyone has said we don’t need to do anything. We’re having a disagreement on what should be done.”

In a recent column in the Star Tribune, several residents made a last-ditch effort to persuade officials to rethink the project.

Do more than admit you were wrong to cut neighbors out of the decision-making process as the details became clear. Acknowledge that leveling the Cleveland Avenue glade is an idea out of touch with the realities of the climate-challenged future. Face the fact that the trees will be gone forever, but no one really knows what the facts of urban transportation will be in five years, let alone 20.

But unless something changes, Ramsey County public works expects to start on the road work next week. One of St. Paul’s most scenic streets will never look the same.