Janesville crews removing trees to beat back ash borer

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staff, Gazette
Tuesday, March 5, 2013

— Janesville city crews have begun removing ash trees before emerald ash borers can get them first.

The emerald ash borer was found in June on private property north of Craig High School. Experts suspect the insect has been in Janesville for at least three years, and they predict Janesville will lose most of its ash trees within the next five years.

The city’s goal is to remove 100 ash trees this year from some parks and city-owned properties so workers can develop a tree-removing process and practice on equipment, said Tom Presny, parks director. Residents will be able to remove the firewood for free, which will help reduce disposal costs.

“Our main focus is just to start the process of removing what will be 7,000 to 15,000 ash trees on parkland,” Presny said.

“One of the things we hope to do is educate ourselves on how much time it will take, (by doing it) a day here and there,” he said. “We’re not in the business. Once we remove these, we’ll be able to gauge what it’s going to cost to take down hundreds and then thousands.”

After ash trees are fully infested with the borer, the wood becomes brittle and smashes like glass upon removal, Presny said. Removing the trees proactively—before they are dead—is safer, more efficient and less expensive, he said.

Trees that are being felled are those that show signs of stress, are physically damaged or are growing in utility lines, Presny said.

“We do not know of any infected ash trees on parkland at this point,” Presny said.

Borers infect a tree from the top down over about three years.

Any infected wood found likely will be chipped, Presny said.

The council added $107,000 to the 2013 budget to begin dealing with the ash borer, including:

-- $25,000 to contract with a forestry consultant.

-- $38,000 for a four-employee tree-cutting crew to work 270 hours.

-- $14,000 to reimburse other city departments for equipment use.

-- $25,000 to match a $25,000 urban forestry grant to plant trees. The grant will be used to plant new trees and to chemically treat ash trees the city wants to save.

The new trees will be shade trees but none will be ash or maple trees, Presny said. Foresters consider Janesville to be over-populated with maple trees, and some predict maples will be the next victims of an insect or disease. About 65 percent of Janesville’s trees are maples.

Replacement trees could be oak, linden, honey locust and hybrid elms.

-- $5,000 for miscellaneous expenses.

Officials estimate Janesville has about 33,000 ash trees, including about 3,100 on street terraces, 15,000 on private property, 7,500 in parks and on city-owned land and 7,500 in undeveloped public areas. Removal of the latter trees will not have a high priority, Presny said.

Property owners are responsible for removing infected trees in their yards and on their terraces.

Last updated: 7:59 am Monday, April 29, 2013

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