April 28, 2017
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Curious Kenosha: What’s the plan for dead ash trees?

Trees devastated by insect a concern for municipalities, utility company


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BY JEFFREY ZAMPANTI
jzampanti@kenoshanews.com


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Leaves aren’t the only things falling from trees these days.

City workers removed about 500 ash trees this year, with more than 3,000 others scheduled to be taken down in the future among concerns over falling branches, limbs and other debris, according to city forester Dirk Nelson. The emerald ash borer is to blame for this mess and the extensive cleanup project needed to remove the area’s entire ash population.

The Kenosha News looked into this issue after a question about ash trees received the most votes in a Curious Kenosha voting round. The question, asked by an anonymous user, was:

“There are hundreds of dead ash trees. What’s the plan? By next year every breeze will take out power. Branches in street, roofs, sidewalks??”

“Pretty much every ash tree in Kenosha is going to be affected in the next two or three years, not counting the ones that are already dead,” Nelson said. “We’re aware of it. The problem with ashes as they die, they dry out and drop branches and become a more hazardous situation. We’re not afraid the trees are going to fall, but the branches can. We’ve already had some of that happen.”

The city removes trees on public property and those located between a homeowner’s sidewalk and curb. City workers spent the past month cleaning up the White Caps subdivision, just north of Highway 50 between 88th Avenue and 104th Avenue.

“We’re just asking people to be patient,” Nelson said. “We’ve been swamped. We already have a big list for removal next year.”

Other communities are wrestling with this issue, too. Paddock Lake is helping residents pay to have dead ash trees removed. Kenosha County had to take down more than 2,600 trees in county parks, including Petrifying Springs Park and Golf Course.

Falling branches and limbs remain a safety concern, but We Energies spokeswoman Amy Jahns said there hasn’t been an increase in area outages due to tree issues.

“It’s definitely on our radar,” Jahns said. “We’re just careful with all of the trees as they grow near our power lines. We work with local land owners and municipalities to do trimming on those trees so we can provide reliable power.”

The ash borer has spread through dozens of Wisconsin counties — including Kenosha, Racine, Milwaukee and Dane — and will continue its northwest path into Minnesota, according to Nelson. The borer, which was first spotted in the area in 2007, chews through the bark and cuts off a tree’s water and nutrients.

It is expected to eventually kill all of the city’s nearly 5,000 ash trees.

Earlier this year, Kenosha County removde more than 2,600 ash trees in Petrifying Springs, Brighton Dale Links golf course and Fox River Park as part of efforts to both limit the borer’s spread after the trees had died as well remove its food source.

“The White Ash are beautiful this time of the year with their fall color,” Nelson said. “We’re going to miss that.”

The one silver lining is an ample supply of mulch and wood chips. The trees taken down are converted to a high-quality, commercial-grade wood chip used at city playgrounds and compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The city’s reforestation program gives residents an opportunity to have new trees planted. The cost is $25 to replace a tree that has been removed in the past five years or $100 for a new tree.

Residents have about a dozen species to choose from.

“The one thing we’re going to learn from this is we need diversity in trees,” Nelson said. “What would happen if the maples got hit next? We have to diversify our urban forest. That’s what we’re trying to do.”

For more information, visit www.kenosha.org/departments/parks/trees.html.


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