ELKHART — Amid the devastation of ash trees, there is a glimmer of good news in Elkhart.
The downside in the city is simple. By the end of the year, just about every ash tree in Elkhart’s city parks and along streets will be gone.
City Forester Dan Coy is overseeing the second year of extensive removal of ash trees that are dead or near death from infestation of the Emerald ash borer.
He and a half dozen other city employees who work at the city’s buildings and grounds department have seen their duties shift significantly in the past year or so from a role of primarily tree care to one of tree removal.
“We’re kind of drowning in work right now,” Coy said.
City workers have been concentrating this month on removing trees from Island and McNaughton parks. Coy predicts that by early March, they will have removed about 125 trees.
The work is being done right now, he said, while the ground is still hard and few people are using the parks.
But from the ashes’ destruction, arises a little good news.
Despite the death of hundreds of trees, the lumber is still fine and the city wants to make use of as much of it as possible. That’s because the ash borers kill the trees by eating away at a thin layer of tissue between the hardwood and the bark and leave much of the hardwood untouched, Coy said.
Coy said he wants to re-use as much of the dead trees as possible.
One example of that is his plan to use some of the lumber from the recently removed trees to construct a small observation deck at the Elkhart Environmental Center on East Lusher Avenue.
The city is seeking an arrangement with a woodworker who would be willing to cut up and mill a few of the logs needed to build the deck. In exchange, the city would provide an unspecified amount of wood to whoever does the work.
On Tuesday, Feb. 19, Coy was granted permission by the city board of public works to seek an arrangement.
But that still leaves plenty of more logs that Coy said he’d like to either sell or give away.
Coy said he would like to sell the wood, but is unsure if that will happen. A meeting was conducted last October with woodworkers and other who might have an interest in the wood.
“This is really the people’s lumber. In my opinion, it should go to the people,” Coy said.
“What we’re trying to do is get some excitement into wood utilization and we’re looking for bigger projects in the community,” he said.
Before the arrival of the ash borer, Coy estimates that about 17 percent of the trees along Elkhart city streets were ash trees.
Coy said they are trying to save about 75 to 100 ash trees with a treatment program.
Anyone interested in acquiring some of the logs, contact Elkhart City Forester Dan Coy at 970-0542, extension 204. Or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.