Downtown St. Paul’s signature park is losing some of its trees — but new ones will be planted this summer.
As part of a $2.42 million overhaul of Rice Park, 27 trees will be removed from the park. Thirteen new trees will be planted with species including Skyline honey locust and American linden.
Clare Cloyd, a spokeswoman for the St. Paul Parks and Recreation department, said the trees are being removed for a few reasons — some are diseased or infested, some have raised safety concerns and some are simply not part of the new design.
Cloyd said park users and neighbors have complained about the ginkgo trees, which drop smelly orange fruits that squish and stick underfoot.
Plans for the Rice Park revamp include new flower beds, pathway lighting, paving and a lighted feature as part of the central fountain, as well as irrigation and electrical system improvements. Local organizations, including the St. Paul Garden Club, the Rice Park Association and the St. Paul Parks Conservancy raised a little more than $1 million to pay for the upgrade, and the city will cover the rest.
After years of planning and fundraising, the tree removal is the first tangible step in the revitalization project.
“It’s great to be at this point. When we embarked on the fundraising, that was a little daunting,” said Amy Mino, Rice Park Association chairwoman. “But we had a great response. People really care about Rice Park and have a vested interest in it.”
Work on the park upgrade is scheduled to begin in April, but some trees were removed in advance — at no additional cost — to help with ice palace construction, Cloyd said.
Construction of the ice palace, a St. Paul Winter Carnival tradition, kicked off Tuesday with the placement of a 500-pound block of ice cut from Green Lake in Spicer, Minn.
The $800,000, privately funded palace will be the centerpiece of the carnival, which begins the evening of Jan. 25. The palace will feature six towers and reach seven stories high.
Ruth Huss, a member of the Rice Park renovation project design advisory committee, has lived for about a decade in a building that overlooks the park. She watched the trees come down and now is watching the ice palace go up.
“I was sorry to see those mature trees go, but sometimes it has to be done,” she said. “And since they’re going to do it in April, they might as well take them down now and put the ice castle up.”
Emma Nelson • 612-673-4509