Lake County towns vary ash borer attack plans
Larvae of the adult emerald ash borer burrow into the bark of ash trees, causing the trees to starve and eventually die . | For Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 25, 2013 9:54AM
As the infestation of the emerald ash borer has quarantined 40 percent of the state’s trees, Lake County communities have crafted individual plans of attack to minimize the beetles’ devastating impact.
Circumstances unique to each municipality make a case-by-case plan the right approach, said Scott Schirmer, emerald ash borer program manager for the Illinois Department of Agriculture.
“There’s no cookie-cutter plan of ‘This is what you have to do’,” he said.
Communities with few ash trees, like Mundelein, may opt to rid the town completely of the species and future infestations.
Mundelein public works and engineering director Adam Boeche said the village is considering a proposal to remove ash trees in poor or dead condition and replace them within 18 months. The plan calls for dividing the village into eight zones with public works employees covering one zone per year.
“If we would try to do it in one fell swoop, it would cost the village $1.4 million,” Boeche said. “We don’t have that funding available.”
Mundelein will not use chemical treatment to try to save some of its trees.
“Any chemicals utilized would have to be continually used for the life of the tree. None have been proven to be an eradication method,” he said.
Other communities throughout the state are holding tight, Schirmer said.
“They want to preserve these trees and they’re going to make a commitment to treat them and try to keep some of them around,” he said.
The Lake Forest City Council is considering a $3 million plan over 10 years to salvage, remove and replace as many of the city’s 4,461 ash trees located in city parks and parkways, City Forester Peter Gordon said.
“Basically, we’re looking at removal of trees under 10 inches in diameter and treatment of about 1,300 trees to mitigate the loss so as not to take them all out right away,” Gordon said. To remove all ash trees immediately would have a great environmental impact, he said, “So you try to manage your removals.”
The pest infestation is not only causing a huge economic expense for local communities rich with ash trees, but threatening to drastically change their aesthetics, too.
Lake Forest has planned a community forum to discuss the emerald ash borer from 9-11 a.m. on Saturday, June 1, at the Gorton Community Center, 400 E. Illinois Road, to give residents details on the city’s plan and efforts to help residents reduce their private costs for treatment and removal.
Gordon estimates there are 100,000 private ash trees within Lake Forest’s borders.
In Libertyville, chemical treatment and removal will continue for the second year.
Park Superintendent Jim Barlow said the village spent about $30,000 last year treating 812 parkway ash trees and removing another 210. He estimates the village has about 12,000 ash trees in all, comprising about 20 percent of the total tree inventory.
“In our situation, I think this is the best way to do it,” Barlow said.
Vernon Hills has an aggressive management program for the 3,500 ash trees remaining in its parkways. The village anticipates spending $1.6 million for an eight to 10 year program of tree removal, stump grinding, replacement and chemical treatment on individual trees considered worth saving.
“We have to be cautious, but we also have to be proactive,” Vernon Hills public works Director David Brown said.
Ash trees comprise just 10 percent of the tree population in Lake Bluff , the golden number, Schirmer said.
“There’s been this kind of revolution in urban forestry trying to avoid these kinds of problems in the future,” Schirmer said. “If you can get your ash population down to 10 percent, 10 percent in the maple family, 10 percent in the oak family and so on, then you can avoid potentially huge impacts.”
Lake Bluff will continue to try a little bit of everything on its 800 ash trees.
“We’re currently (chemically) treating some trees as a test,” said public works Superintendent Jake Terlap. The village is removing less desirable trees and replacement of at least 25 per year.
“We’re trying to take the most practical approach we can,” Terlap said.