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Kevin Nelson: Addressing tree removal concerns

It’s been said that the City may stop trimming trees on boulevards and parks and may, in turn look at contracting out tree work. Is this a possibility?

Yes, it is a very distinct possibility. The City is considering contracting out tree services for next year, meaning the intent would be to pay less in related expenses, but in return, it may be getting less “tree service.” The key to this, for those watching city council action and our City dollars, is “paying less.” Due to a minimal (four percent) approved tax levy increase for 2021, when a more substantial increase is needed to maintain current services, the City is in need of reducing or even eliminating some normal services to balance the operating budget. As a part of this, the City has not re-hired for 4.5 open positions in 2020, and other positions may be reduced, as will services, and quite possibly even the number of parks acres which are maintained. However, no tree service has yet been contracted and no specific parks are targeted at this time for reductions in mowing.

Can residents make any difference?

They can, through a variety of ways, including but not necessarily limited to the following:

• Volunteer through clean-up of parks and other public spaces, as this can take a load off some departmental maintenance efforts (it is all greatly appreciated) and it can instill a sense of pride in local residents who participate. As a part of a club or service group, you can also inquire of us regarding parks needs, be they labor or physical/amenities improvements. The Park, Recreation and Forestry Department is very receptive of offered help and donations toward park improvements.

• Form Neighborhood Watch groups, looking out not only for your neighborhood private properties, but also parks and other public lands. Vandalism of parks and other public property costs you, as taxpayers, each time something needs to be fixed, replaced, cleaned or re-painted.

• Contact your city council members and express that you are willing to take more ownership in your community via a more substantial increase in property taxes.

What’s New to Do in Park and Rec?

• Youth Basketball: This is a non-traveling league played Tuesdays and Thursdays at Southgate Elementary School beginning Oct. 20. There are separate times for K-1st, 2nd-3rd, and 4th-6th grades. Registration deadline is Oct. 16.

• 5th-6th Grade Volleyball: The league is played Tuesdays and Thursdays at IJ Holton beginning Oct. 6.

• Public Skate: Limited dates/times for Riverside will be announced soon. Additional opportunities will be presented after Nov. 7 once Packer Arena opens for the ice season.

• Halloween Warm-Up at the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center: Nearly half of the tickets are still available for the annual event. Contact the Nature Center to register.