Monday, September 01, 2008

40 ash trees in Chenoa park likely will fall victim to ash borer

From the Bloomington Pantagraph
By M.K. Guetersloh

CHENOA -- The older, mature trees that provide shade for the city of Chenoa’s park soon could be gone. The park, just under the city’s water tower on the north side of the town, has 40 ash trees, all of which likely will fall victim to the emerald ash borer.

Chenoa Mayor Walt Hetman said the city’s main park is about three blocks in size and may have a handful of trees that are not ash.

“It didn’t make my day, that’s for sure,” Hetman said of the news that the emerald ash borer is active in the area.

The Illinois Department of Agriculture found the insect in southwest Bloomington earlier this summer. Since then, state officials determined the borer has been in McLean County — specifically Chenoa — for several years.

The larvae of the beetles feed on the inner bark of ash trees, ultimately strangling the trees.

Bloomington officials announced earlier this week the ash borer infestation will cost the city $2 million to $3 million. That’s the cost of removing and replanting 3,400 ash trees, about 20 percent of the city’s trees.

Area communities will see a mix of results in local landscapes and city budgets from the ash borer.

Eureka City Administrator Anne Sandvik said that city has found less than a dozen ash trees among the trees in its parks and along the streets.

She said she expects the ash borer to have little effect on the tree population there.

However Chenoa, a town of about 1,800 on the Livingston-McLean county line, has more than 200 ash trees that likely will have to come down.

Hetman estimated the city is looking at costs starting at $250,000. With an annual general fund budget of about $1.2 million, that will put an unexpected strain on the city’s resources.

“Some of the smaller trees we might be able to save, but I don’t know how we are going to pay for any of it,” Hetman said.

Although there is no way to eradicate the pests right now, there are some treatments that may help the ash trees fend them off.

The city of Pontiac is spending about $5,000 this year to treat about 250 of its ash trees. Pontiac Street Superintendent Chris Brock said that because they are doing the treatments themselves, it saves on costs.

Next year they will spend about $6,500, he added.

Brock estimated there are 600 to 650 ash trees in Pontiac. Because of the bug’s appearance in Chenoa — about 10 miles south of Pontiac — he said it is only a matter of time before it is found there.

“It’s pretty grim if you stop and look at it,” Brock said. “So we are trying our best to save some of these trees.”

How much it will cost Pontiac to take down the remaining 400 or so trees that city staff cannot save has not been determined, Brock said.

“We are just like everyone else trying to get the most for our dollar,” Brock said. “Fortunately we do our own tree work so that will save us some money.”


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