Cutting (and Spraying) a Wider Swath

In June 2012 the Canadian Pacific / Soo Line Railroad began what appears to be a new effort to clear vegetation along its right of way through areas adjacent to Columbia Park. A wider zone of dead annual plants, and now trees as well, suddenly appeared: probably sprayed with chemical unknown.

Dead vegetation (inc. trees marked for cutting) adjacent to Columbia Park

Trees marked for cutting - next to railroad trestle

An inquiry to Minneapolis Parks commissioner Liz Wielinski brought a response that the railroad has a free hand within one hundred feet on either side of the tracks, which would seem to include broad swaths of park land, including old oak woods between the railroad and the rugby pitch. Her staff provided an aerial view of  Columbia Park property marked to show the legal limit of railroad impact.

One might be interested in picking and eating raspberries and elderberries along the bottom of the railroad embankment along 36th Avenue between Columbia Parkway and 5th Street. Considering how close they are to the railroad tracks, one probably ought to let them be.

Update July 10, 2012:

At the Shoreham Area Advisory Committee meeting on July 9, Brenda Rivera, the railroad’s PR advisor of community relations, told us that a contractor sprays “for weeds” along the tracks twice a year during the day. She did not know what chemical is used but will get back to us.
People who want to voice their concern about the gross overspraying near trails and
picnic areas at the Golf Course can call the railroad’s “Community Connect Line” at 1-800-766-7912 or email
Update July 19:
An email from Ms. Rivera states: 

  • The company we use is Asplundh (Railroad Division)
  • They spray twice a year
  • The spray 8 ft on either side from the center of the tracks (16 ft total width)  This is within the railroad right of way
  • The chemical they use is listed below and is EPA approved (Opensight) [a combination of metsulfuron-methyl and aminopyralid – ed.]
  • They were recently contacted by Ramsey County for some areas north of Minneapolis that have a wild parsnip problem.  [Wild parsnip is a plant whose sap is toxic to the skin: In the presence of sunlight it can cause a rash, blistering and discoloration of the skin (phytophotodermatitis). – Ed.]

Update August 27, 2012

Our City council member, Kevin Reich, is aware of the concern expressed by some, and has communicated that he would be checking with City public health officials about the situation. In an email, Mr. Reich stated: “I’ve asked Tom Frame, with the City of Minneapolis Environmental, to contact CP Rail’s environmental staff to discuss the details of the spraying they are doing and the chemicals being used and make an assessment of next steps. He’ll then brief me and I’ll continue following up on this until our questions are answered.”

Update September 16, 2013

A number of trees and shrubs along the railroad appear to be dead or dying:

View from 36th Avenue NE near Spain Place

View from Columbia Parkway at Architect Avenue