It’s probably not a coincidence that the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency does not have an office in Bemidji. If it did…maybe things would be different.
Monday Sept 21st at about 11 am while driving down Paul Bunyan Drive near the mall, I could see haze and smoke settling over the area. Was there a fire nearby? Obviously by the smell, something was burning. Looking at the sky I could see clouds of smoke billowing from over towards the curling rink. Curiosity got the best of me and I headed towards City Park. As I arrived I could see the culprit. Several large tractors were dumping cut down trees into two large slash piles that were on fire. Our city and its contractors, who have just started the makeover of CITY PARK, were burning trees that had just been cleared.
This is not the first time I have blogged about this in Bemidji. It seems it is fairly common practice to just burn what is chopped down. I don’t have asthma, I don’t have any bronchial problems, but I sure sympathize with anyone in the neighborhood of CITY PARK today who had to put up with this. And frankly I am a bit surprised by the City and the Parks Department for allowing this to happen. As a City we should be setting the example…after all we were designated as a FIT CITY and just had the ACTIVE LIVING PARTNERSHIP HEALTH CARNIVAL this past Saturday on the waterfront.
In defense of the city…maybe they didn’t even know the contractor was going to do this. Maybe it was legal…get a fire permit from the DNR and your off and running. I am sure of this…burning piles of cut trees is MUCH CHEAPER than having a company do the environmentally correct thing and chip or mulch them. Somebody along the chain had a significant cost saving by putting them up in smoke.
I realize burning is part of the “Up North” experience. I too have burned some tree trimmings and small cuttings. I also realize in some cases controlled burns are necessary in forests and wooded area to control wildfires and help new growth. My concern is several times a year I see woodpiles burned near the city for new construction, burned on land owned by business operations who can and should be able to afford to be respectful to the rest of the community. We may legally be able to do this, but morally its taboo for the same reasons we don’t burn trash. It would be nice we could do a little “self policing” without getting the state involved.