It took a while, but my hometown has the dubious distinction of finally catching up to the rest of the unfortunate municipalities across half of the country that have lost so much of their tree canopy to emerald ash borer. We can’t say that we didn’t know it was coming, and I can’t say that the village didn’t do anything about it. Still, it’s agonizing to witness what so many other towns have experienced, and it’s a little like getting the wind knocked out of you when you drive along what used to be familiar, tree-covered side streets and see nothing but blue—or, more likely this spring—cloudy sky.
Homeowners were informed in 2009 that the nasty little critter had been spotted, and those of us with ash trees on our properties were given the option of splitting the cost of treatment in a 50/50 cost-sharing program. I’m lucky, sort of; I only have a monster Siberian elm that’s required the replacement of a patio.
Next door, though, my neighbor has already spent more than $500 to treat his one ash. Turns out the 50/50 split applied only to parkway trees, and his stands proudly in the back yard. He says it was well worth the expense to have some measure of hope that the tree will survive and continue to offer much-needed shade. He was considering the cross-your-fingers approach, but decided to foot the bill when his 5-year-old grandson identified “a emerald ass bore” on the trunk and begged Grandpa to save the tree. The dreaded pest turned out to be a firefly, but why risk it?
The village arborist tells us that one-third of the parkway trees are ash, with some neighborhoods hosting nearly two-thirds ash. This isn’t unusual; many of the hard-hit municipalities relied on fast-growing trees and thus (somewhat unwittingly) created risky monocultures. In fact, this isn’t the first massive tree loss my hometown has suffered. I can rustle up an early memory of beautiful, leafy lanes brutally exposed by Dutch elm disease. Would that the village elders had learned their lesson about monocultures then.
In one short block, more than half of the mature parkway trees are falling to EAB.
In one sense, we’re lucky that EAB attacks only Fraxinus. Where we’re considerably unlucky is in sheer number of Fraxinus planted years ago. I have my problems with our village arborist, who continues to spec shade trees beneath power lines and advocates for mulch-the-hell-out-of-it planting. But I know he’s not to blame for EAB.
I will, however, send him a copy of “Host Range Matters,” which you can read on page 6 of this issue. I know he’s aware of http://www.emeraldashborer.info, but I’d really like to know that he understands that the replacement trees the village has specified need to be carefully considered.