by Joni Astrup
A new program is being launched in Elk River to train citizens to prune trees in parks and other public spaces.
The Citizen Pruner Program is a University of Minnesota pilot program. Four cities in Sherburne County have been selected to participate — Elk River, Big Lake, Princeton and Becker — as well as the cities of Rochester and Shakopee.
Citizen pruners will be trained in tree identification, biology and pruning techniques, according to Gina Hugo, resource conservationist with the Sherburne Soil and Water Conservation District.
Two training session options will be offered:
•8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, March 8, at the Sherburne History Center in Becker.
•8 a.m. to noon, Tuesday, April 1, and Thursday, April 3, at the Princeton Library.
The cost to attend the eight hours of training is $20. Courses will be taught by University of Minnesota Urban Forestry Department staff. For more information, go to www.mntca.org/mcp-sherburne or contact Hugo at 763-241-1170, ext. 101 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Once volunteers complete training, they will participate in pruning events with Hugo and city staff.
Hugo said there will be four events this spring and another set of events in the fall. Volunteers are expected to complete 10 hours or three events a year.
They will focus on simple pruning this year, which will not involve ladders or chain saws. Hugo hopes to build on the program next year and offer additional training to the volunteers.
Elk River Park Maintenance Supervisor Rodney Schreifels envisions pruning trees at developed parks first, such as Orono Park and Lions Park. Other public facilities like the library grounds also have pruning needs that could be addressed by the volunteers.
Elk River has a total of 44 parks and Schreifels said there is no shortage of trees that need pruning.
“We should be doing more trimming and pruning and all those good things, but I don’t always have the staff to get to that. I thought this is a great opportunity to maybe utilize some volunteers,” he said.
The Citizen Pruner program originated in New York state, where it has been very successful, Hugo said.
She believes the tree surveys conducted in Sherburne County cities last year set the stage for those cities to be part of the University of Minnesota’s Citizen Pruner pilot program.
“There’s kind of a trust relationship the university has with our cities that they’re going to follow through on things,” she said.