By the end of May, the city of St. Charles aims to be two-thirds of the way through a nearly five-year effort to remove and replace 3,600 ash trees that either have died or been sickened beyond redemption by a small green beetle from Asia.
The city is working to replace the trees, but the removal is moving more swiftly, St. Charles Public Services Manager Peter Suhr said Monday, but trees grow slowly. It will be some time before the new trees establish themselves as the mature trees that have been removed.
The city has been monitoring 5,400 ash trees in the city’s rights of way since 2008, two years after an invasive species of beetle first was detected in northern Illinois. The city has targeted 3,600 for removal, and is nearly two-thirds of the way through that process.
A decade ago, the emerald ash borer — a little green beetle from Asia — first was detected in the United States when it was found near Detroit, Mich., although experts expect it actually arrived in North America in the 1990s.
Since then, however, it has spread, cutting a swath of destruction as it left tens of millions of ash trees dead or dying in 18 states and in parts of Canada, according to the federal government’s emerald ash borer website.
It arrived in northern Illinois in 2006, and has been a plague upon the Chicago region ever since.
Despite the beauty some might see in its namesake color, the little bug has been cause for alarm almost from the start, laying its eggs in ash trees, where its larvae burrow beneath the bark. The larvae destroy the tree’s ability to move water and nutrients above the infested portions of the trunk, eventually weakening and then killing the tree, according to www.emeraldashborer.info.
In most instances, removing and destroying the infested tree is the only solution, but the removal has left many treebanks and other parts of town bereft of mature trees, whose removal alarmed some residents who were unaware of the impact of the tiny pest.
Kathy McGinley and Kelly Collins both appeared before the St. Charles City Council Government Services Committee this week to ask about the removal of so many trees. Their questions for city officials coincided with a report to aldermen on the ash tree removal program, as well as a request by city staff to begin the the next phase — removal of 1,000 more trees.
Many of the trees that have been removed in the Walnut Hill area were not dead, McGinley said, asking why they were all cut down.
Collins said she became aware of the tree removal after she closed on her house in 2011. First she noticed the dots marking some trees, Then trees started being removed. She also expressed concern that the trees have not been replaced.
Suhr said the still-living trees that were cut down were not deemed salvageable by city’s arborist. He added the trees are marked as residents are notified of a tree’s pending removal. Homeowners are sent two notices — after the first, the tree is marked with a purple dot, after the second notice, a pink dot.
Committee Chairman Dan Stellato, 1st Ward alderman, noted that residents did have the option of saving and treating those trees that were considered salvageable, which is one reason homeowners were notified by letter.
Stellato also said there is some good news — the city has found adequate leftover funding from Red Gate Bridge project that will allow it to replace the removed trees by 2014.
Suhr noted that the city’s replacement program this year involves planting 700 new trees.
Later Monday evening, the Government Services Committee voted to recommend formal City Council approval of a staff recommendation to enter into a $500,000 contract with Skyline Tree Service for continued removal of infested ash trees.
- June 25, 2012:
- May 31, 2012: City Gears Up to Continue Fight Against Emerald Ash Borer
- May 29, 2012: Agenda for Tonight's Government Services Committee Meeting
- May 23, 2012: City to Issue Bonds to Fight Emerald Ash Borer
- Aug. 14, 2011: New Weapon in Emerald Ash Borer Detection Found
- June 28, 2011: City of St. Charles Participating in Second Year of Emerald Ash Borer Insecticide Program
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