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Thermal modification enables repurposing of emerald ash borer-infested trees in Minneapolis

Emerald ash borer beetle

Photo courtesy of the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources – Forestry Archive.

You may have heard of the emerald ash borer, a highly destructive invasive species that attacks and kills ash trees. An exotic beetle from Asia, the emerald ash borer was first discovered in the U.S. in 2002 and made its first appearance in City of Minneapolis in 2010 – a time when there were around 40,000 ash trees across city parks and boulevards. An ash tree has almost no chance of survival once infested, and the disease spreads quickly among trees.

Tree infested with emerald ash borer

Ash tree infested with the emerald ash borer. Photo courtesy of David Roberts, MSU.

The Minneapolis Parks & Recreation Board (MPRB) Forestry Department contacted Intectural in early 2014, when it found out it needed to cut down all ash trees in the City of Minneapolis. As part of its Emerald Ash Borer Preparedness Program, the MPRB Forestry Department was looking to reuse the wood from the ash trees. And as a company committed to sustainable design, we were eager to be part of this project.

From dying ash trees to sustainable decking

The first step in the process was harvesting and rough milling the wood on site to remove the bark, which is required to transport the lumber. The MPRB then sent the wood to us for thermal modification to make it suitable for outdoor use. We then finish milled the lumber into Arbor Wood Co. decking. Finally, the decking was installed as a boardwalk at the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and Bird Sanctuary.

Boardwalk at the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and Bird Sanctuary

A 15-acre historic native plant garden and wild bird sanctuary, this park is home to more than 500 plant species and provides habitat for more than 140 resident and migratory bird species. It’s also the oldest public wildflower garden in the country.

The new boardwalk opened on July 24 and, according to the MPRB website, “is a simple, graceful addition to complement its quiet wetland setting.” The garden is open for guests mid-April through October 15. If you’ve never been, it’s definitely worth a trip – especially now, with the new Arbor Wood boardwalk.

If you’re a municipality needing to get rid of boulevard trees, please contact us. We’d love to chat with you about repurposing your lumber!

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