Street trees struggle

Humboldt planted trees along downtown sidewalk but they keep dying. Administrator Cole Herder said the city will replace them at a cost of $12,000.

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Local News

June 11, 2024 - 3:23 PM

Mid-morning Tuesday was evidence of Humboldt’s picturesque downtown, including its evenly spaced linden trees. Unfortunately, not all the trees are surviving due to moisture trapped under the sidewalks. “You can reach down there and pull mud out year-round,” City Administrator Cole Herder told Council members Monday night. Photo by Susan Lynn / Iola Register

HUMBOLDT — “Sidewalks are very difficult on trees,” Cole Herder told Humboldt Council members Monday evening. 

The city will replace 10-12 trees, including some that have been replaced before.Photo by Susan Lynn / Iola Register

Trees planted along Bridge Street on the north side of the square are an especial challenge, said Herder, city administrator.  

“They just keep dying. Even in times of drought they’re always wet,” he said. Between 10 and 12 trees need to be replaced. Herder noted that some of those needing replaced “have already been replaced several times before.” 

“We can’t dry out the trapped soil underneath the sidewalk on the north side,” Herder explained as the problem. “The holes never dry out. You can reach down there and pull mud out year-round.” 

An underground irrigation system waters the trees. “But on the north side, it’s never turned on,” Herder said. 

Humboldt renovated its downtown sidewalks within the last 10 years. Local businessmen Walter Wulf of Monarch Cement and Joe Works of B&W Trailer Hitches contributed significantly to the re-do, including planting linden trees along the sidewalks. 

 “They each took a block a year for five years,” planting about six trees per block, Herder said Tuesday morning. Of the 10 blocks, some have more trees than others, depending on the businesses’ preferences, he said. 

Herder said the trees may “cause some issues down the road because linden trees can get 60 feet tall and be 30-40 feet across. So, they’re going to be really large trees.” The city is considering replacing the failed trees with the Frans Fontaine tree, a slender and columnar tree that is better suited to wet soil, per the suggestion of Chris Wehlage of Chanute’s SEK Landscape, who has been hired for the job. A state forester has also recommended the tree. Herder said the forester is writing a publication on streetscapes and is using Humboldt’s situation in his materials. 

Herder estimated it will cost $12,000 to replace the trees. 

Herder recognized “the tremendous gift” by Wulf and Works for the streetscape.  

“Now we have to maintain that gift,” he said. 

After a lengthy discussion, Council members agreed. 

A NEW car wash is scheduled to open the first of August, “If we get a stretch of dry weather,” said owner Kyle Owens of Yates Center. 

The car wash, 312 N. Ninth, is at the intersection of Ninth and Central, just north of Pete’s Convenience Store.  

Currently, the site is a big expanse of concrete, but the “block building should be going up at the end of the week,” said Owens. By July 4, the machinery installed. 

Owens said he redid the sidewalk along the south side of the property and asked the city “to help me out” replacing about 70 feet of sidewalk along Central Street, the town’s major thoroughfare. 

Herder said the job should cost about $3,000. 

This will be Humboldt’s first automatic car wash, Herder said, and as such will use “quite a bit more water than the previous car wash,” contributing to the city’s utilities funds as well as its sales tax base.

Council members gave their seal of approval. 

Council member Sunny Shreeve noted that because their decision to help a private business in such manner “sets a precedent,” that Council should further discuss whether they should draft a policy as such. 

Police Chief Shannon Moore introduces Lt. Jacob Schuetz to Humboldt Council members Monday evening as the force’s newest member. In the wings is Terry McDonald, who will join the HPD July 1.Photo by Susan Lynn

JACOB SCHUETZ is a new lieutenant at the Humboldt Police force. Schuetz and his wife have three children ages 5, 3 and 1, and currently live in Iola.  

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