By Scott Carlson
Ramsey County is expected this spring to rebuild a segment of Cleveland Avenue in St. Anthony Park with special conditions aimed at protecting an endangered insect — the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee.
The county’s compromises include a pledge to minimize project work in an area inhabited by 35 mature trees 350 feet north of the Folwell and Cleveland avenues intersection, according to Friends of the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee.
The mutual understanding calls on Ramsey County to “stay out of tree work and soil impacts in this area between March 15 and May 15,” the citizens group said in a draft statement.
Ramsey County has also pledged to replant the area with trees and habitat conducive to the life cycle of the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee and “will use tree and plant material that has not been treated with pesticides.”
Reconstruction in 2022 focused on Cleveland Avenue between Como and Buford avenues. The remaining stretch to the north up to Larpenteur Avenue is scheduled for completion this year.
Those Phase 2 changes come after the Bumble Bee citizens group warned that the county’s initial reconstruction plans, including tree removals, would harm the habitats of a colony of the endangered Rusty Patched Bumble Bee.
“Our particular concern for these trees is that they are within the foraging, overwintering and nesting habitat of the federally-listed endangered Rusty Patched Bumble Bee,” said Margot Monson, a co-founder of Friends for the Rusty Patched Bumble Bees.
“Not only has the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee been chosen as the Minnesota State Bee, the University of Minnesota-St. Paul campus has been officially designated as the University of Minnesota Twin Cities Bee Campus, and the RPBB has been documented in a few places on the St Paul campus within flight range of these 35 woodland trees.
“Further, this area on Cleveland Avenue has been mapped by the USFWS (US Fish and Wildlife Service) as within the red zone, for the highest potential habitat for this endangered Rusty Patched Bumble Bee” colony, Monson added.
Last June after much effort by many people in St. Anthony Park who were seeking a compromise from Ramsey County, 64 trees were removed and destroyed in Phase 1, said Monson, a professional entomologist.
“They (the county) are not altering the (Phase 2) plan in terms of removing the trees,” said Pat Thompson, of the St. Anthony Park District 12 Community Council’s Environment Committee. “But they are altering when and, it seems, how they remove the trees on at least the east side of the street, north of Folwell so that the ground (where the bees may be nesting over the winter) are not affected.
“And then the county has agreed to source replacement trees and other plant material from sources that are known to be free of neonic pesticides — which is a step beyond what they have done in the past,” Thompson added.
The Phase 2 Cleveland Avenue reconstruction project has been recently back on the public radar screen. The county held a virtual information meeting on completed project designs on Jan. 24 and an in-person open house on Feb. 7 at the University of Minnesota-St. Paul Student Center.
Despite making some accommodations for the bumble bees, the county’s Phase 2 design plans still include removing about 90 trees from the area this spring, Monson said. The tree removals are planned to make way for various utility improvements for water and sewer service updates.
How quickly Ramsey County can finish leftover sidewalk work from Phase 1 and then initiate Phase 2 road reconstruction depends on when winter snows melt. The county’s goal is to finish all construction work by next fall.
The video of the Jan. 29 virtual community meeting is available on the Cleveland Avenue website: ramseycounty.us/clevelandavenue.
Scott Carlson is managing editor of the Bugle.
Photo caption The Rusty Patched Bumble Bee. Photo by Johanna James-Heintz.