ELKHART — The city of Elkhart’s forestry division has once again ramped up its war on the emerald ash borer, and the latest victims are 59 ash trees in American Park.
But the era of mass eradication may be close to concluding.
The city has worked for several years to fight the infestation of the emerald ash borer by removing seriously damaged trees while also trying to treat trees that could still be saved.
But at the same time, the forestry division, in cooperation with the public works department, is planting more trees than are being removed, said city forester Dan Coy.
This spring, about 300 trees will be planted and more will be added this fall. On top of that, several hundred more will be added as a result of public works projects, Coy said.
“As we get out of the emerald ash borer damage, we’re going to focus more on tree planting and young tree development,” Coy said.
“We’ll gladly move away from tree removal because we have to start rebuilding the city’s canopy,” he said.
Elkhart city residents who have questions about the tree removal effort or would like to request a tree planting along their street are encouraged to call Dan Coy at 970-0542 or email him at Daniel.firstname.lastname@example.org.
But for now, much of the city’s focus remains on the diseased trees, Coy said.
He said he believes the community is in the middle of the peak devastation.
Coy said the removal of trees at American Park probably marks the biggest mass effort this year.
Last year, a similar number of ash trees were removed from McNaughton and Island parks, Coy said.
“The rest of the city parks have some ash trees, but they did not have the population density that those three had,” he said.
As the city continues to attack the problem on public property, one unchecked area continues to be private property where decisions are left up to homeowners.
Next year, the prominence of the disease may well shift to backyards.
“What we’re going to see now is, there’s going to be a lot of standing dead ash trees in our citizens’ back yards simply because they don’t know,” Coy said.
Those circumstances, he said, are “unfortunately common.”
Coy said it is better to take action at a point where there is no hope the tree can be saved. Waiting until the tree is dead isn’t a good idea.
“It’s always safer to take down trees before they die and it’s especially important with ash trees because they become very brittle.”
Historically, ash trees have been widely planted in Elkhart because they are quick growing, strong and tolerant to pollution, but because of the disease, the city is losing many of its trees, Mayor Dick Moore said in a news release.
“Elkhart is committed to helping to create a vibrant urban forest to provide our citizens with cleaner air, lower utility bills, safer neighborhoods, a lower cost of living and higher property values,” Moore said.