Replacing trees on beloved Saginaw Island will take longer than expected

SAGINAW, MI – Saginaw Spectators of the Fourth of July celebration this summer won’t see the trees expected to replace the 22 cottonwood trees cut down last year on Ojibway Island, Saginaw City Hall officials said.

Phil Karwat, the director of Public Services for Saginaw, said city officials expect crews to plant about 40 replacement trees this fall.

The cottonwood trees on the west riverfront of the city property were removed in June 2023 at the request of organizers of Saginaw Area Fireworks, which coordinates the fireworks show launched from the island each July.

Supporters of removing the trees argued that the poplars were both dangerous and detrimental to the island’s amenities.

Roots pierced the nearby concrete walkway and displaced anti-erosion features on the shoreline. The trees’ potential to divert the path of fireworks launched from the island – potentially sending the explosives towards the crowds gathered there for the festivities – added to the need for change, fireworks organizers said .

Thomas Roy, president of Saginaw Area Fireworks, said his organization plans to pay for the new trees and coordinate their installation.

The new trees will not be poplars, although the replacement species remains undetermined, he said.

Although the original plan called for the trees to be replaced in the fall of 2023, Karwat said this time frame was pushed back due to the amount of planning involved in selecting trees suitable for the region and organizing the plantings. The large number of projects that city leaders coordinated last year — including American Rescue Plan Act-funded initiatives and the 2024 Memorial Cup — also played a role in the delay, he said.

Karwat said experts recommend planting trees in the fall, ruling out spring and summer as possible seasons to add the replacements.

Saginaw City Hall officials have said the removal of the trees was unavoidable due to the poor health of many of the targeted cottonwood trees.

Saginaw City Hall officials said they plan to work with the Saginaw Basin Land Conservancy to determine where the replacement trees will land.

Karwat said the new trees will be planted elsewhere on the island, to avoid some of the same dangers once posed by the poplars.

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