RACINE — The City of Racine is in the process of removing 2,283 trees from its parks due to an infestation of emerald ash borers.
The emerald ash borer is an invasive, wood-boring beetle that kills ash trees by eating the tissues under the bark, according to Wisconsin.gov. EAB has been found in 48 of Wisconsin’s 72 counties. It was first discovered in southeastern Wisconsin in August 2008.
The city began planning its EAB strategy in 2011 and has been working on a removal project for trees infested with the bug for the past two years, according to Matthew Koepnick, Racine’s city forester.
“The original goal was to complete this project last winter but the weather did not cooperate and we did not have sufficient frozen ground to proceed,” Koepnick said in an email.
All of the more than 2,200 ash trees being cut down are infested with EAB and are dead or dying, Koepnick said.
Trees set to be downed or that have previously been cut include: 629 trees at Johnson Golf Course; 190 trees at Johnson Park; 202 trees at the Johnson Dog Run; and 1,254 at Colonial Park. All of the trees being removed have been marked with paint since January 2016.
Some of the trees will be replaced and some will not. The city will plant new trees at Colonial Park and in select areas of Johnson Golf Course.
“We will work with golf course management to determine where the new trees are planted,” Koepnick said. “Some areas at Johnson Golf Course have a heavy tree canopy resulting in difficulty growing grass. As a result, the golf course will actually benefit from not having trees planted in some areas.”
Koepnick expects the city to begin the planting process in the fall and continue into 2019 and possibly even into 2020, depending upon future assessments.
The city has already purchased 450 "whips" that are 4 to 5 feet tall and lightly branched for this year’s fall planting. These trees are ideal for reforestation, Koepnick said. The whip species are a mix of red maple, hackberry, catalpa, basswood and tamarack.
“We will receive these trees in spring and store them in our gravel bed to improve their root structure in preparation for the fall planting,” Koepnick said.
The tree removal work is being completed by Koerner Forest Products Limited, located in Oshkosh, at a total cost of approximately $31,000.
Tree tops are being chipped by city forestry crews. Additional cleanup will be completed by city forestry crews and Parks Department employees.
A problem for many
Emerald ash borers are not only an issue for the city, but for private citizens as well.
Deb Lein, vice president of operations at Affordable Tree Care, 3201 Highway H, in Sturtevant, said her business has purchased two lifts that can squeeze into areas that normal equipment can’t fit in order to deal with high volume of dead ash trees due to the ash borers.
“There’s not a day that we don’t take down some ash trees,” Lein said.
Emerald ash borers have killed hundreds of millions of ash trees in North America since being discovered in Michigan in 2002, according to the Emerald Ash Borer Information Network.
And so the harvest begins. The city will be partially denuded. Trees add so much to the urban setting.
I lived as a child through the Dutch Elm Disease attack on our trees. Chatham Street had beautiful. mature elms on both sides, making for a tunnel-like effect. All gone. All gone all over the nation.