How can 13,000 trees go missing? That’s what happened to three groves planted in the early 1900’s by the Minnesota Federation of Women’s Clubs Fourth District.
Over four years, three large groves were established in the Keller Lake area with the goal of using revenue they produced for planting more groves and creating bird sanctuaries in Ramsey County.
At the Rounds-Aker Grove, boy scouts planted 3,000 trees in 1927. In 1928, an additional 3,000 trees were planted nearby, followed by a planting in 1929 of 2,500 pines in the Flicek Park area. And in 1930, 5,000 trees were planted on the “Anna O’Toole Island” in Keller Lake.
The Club became inactive after 1938, and over time the plantations faded from memory—until 2014. Former Maplewood Mayor, Bob Cardinal, had always wondered what happened to the boulder and plaque commemorating an elm grove planted by the Woman’s Club along Keller Creek. One day he went poking in the woods to see if he could find it. Among the scrub trees he found a large granite boulder. Maplewood Public Works crew hauled out the missing monument and the City rededicated it at Arbor Day festivities in 2015.
Intrigued by the discovery of the rock and plaque, Maplewood Area Historical Society (MAHS) and staff from the City and the county went in search of the historic groves. One grove of original trees was found - red, white, and jack pines in the Rounds-Aker Grove on the east side of the Spoon Lake parking lot. A University of Minnesota researcher helped take cores of the trees so we could count the rings and confirm they were about 88 years old and thus were likely from the original planting.
Most of the original 12,500 trees are gone. Many of the trees died from drought. Some were vandalized. Some succumbed to construction damage and development. American elms that survived the above assaults were devastated by Dutch elm disease in the 1960’s and 70’s.