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updated: 4/22/2011 3:00 PM

Ash trees coming down in Vernon Hills

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  • Josh Hansen, a member of Vernon Hills' forestry and grounds crew, strips the bark of an ash tree suspected of being infected by the emerald ash borer on Greenleaf Drive. The village will have removed about 65 trees within a week.

       Josh Hansen, a member of Vernon Hills' forestry and grounds crew, strips the bark of an ash tree suspected of being infected by the emerald ash borer on Greenleaf Drive. The village will have removed about 65 trees within a week.
    Mick Zawislak | Staff Photographer

  • Evidence on the emerald ash borer can be seen in a tree cut down Thursday in Vernon Hills. The destructive beetles chew their way through the tissue of the tree and disrupt the flow of nutrients.

       Evidence on the emerald ash borer can be seen in a tree cut down Thursday in Vernon Hills. The destructive beetles chew their way through the tissue of the tree and disrupt the flow of nutrients.
    Mick Zawislak | Staff Photographer

  • A crew from Vernon Hills' forestry and ground division remove an infected ash tree Thursday along Greenleaf Drive, which has been hit hard by the emerald ash borer.

       A crew from Vernon Hills' forestry and ground division remove an infected ash tree Thursday along Greenleaf Drive, which has been hit hard by the emerald ash borer.
    Mick Zawislak | Staff Photographer

 
 

Chain saws and chippers were humming Thursday in west central Vernon Hills as the battle against the emerald ash borer hit full swing.

As a village forestry crew made quick work of ash trees along Greenleaf Drive in the New Century Town subdivision, a private contractor was taking out infected ashes on nearby Hamilton Place.

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Bill Brown, a Hamilton Drive resident hired a contractor -- who had been working nearby -- on the spot to cut down a more than 25-year-old ash in front of his home.

As he watched sections of branches fall to the ground, Brown acknowledged the aesthetics of the neighborhood would likely change.

"It's definitely going to look different," he said. "It already does."

The Illinois Department of Agriculture has determined the destructive metallic green beetle is in several Lake County communities.

But the beetle, which has killed millions of ash trees in the Midwest, can be present for three or four years before its is noticed.

A predicted eruption across the county appears to have begun in Vernon Hills, which has about 3,600 ash trees, or about a third of its inventory, in the public right of way.

"We're starting to remove the trees we found that are infested," said Ken Loar, a crew leader with the public works department. "We're doing about 65 trees."

The presence of the ash borer became apparent as woodpeckers began digging for borer grubs in ash trees, producing noticeable patches as the bark flaked off.

"The only reason we began to see it was because of all the woodpecker damage," said Josh Hansen, a member of the forestry and grounds crew working on Greenleaf east of Butterfield Road. "It's basically all up and down here."

The ash tree removal should be done in about a week, according to Loar, before the beetles emerge and begin flying.

"Even though we're not seeing damage, we know there are larva in many other trees," Loar said. "We know we won't stop it but we hope to slow it down."

The village has marked damaged trees with orange spray paint. Door hangers alerting residents with affected trees have been distributed, and the village on Thursday posted information and links regarding the emerald ash borer on its website.

Officials will reassess the situation in October, but they are not optimistic.

"Ultimately, we think it's going to be nearly every one of them," Public Works Director David Brown told the village board Tuesday.

In Libertyville, seven ash trees on Mayfair Drive were removed last year, but crews are sitting tight.

"We're still monitoring the situation," said Jim Barlow, superintendent of parks.

Gurnee officials forecast the emerald ash borer could cost the village up to $100,000 in 2011-12. The village board will hear a presentation and discuss the situation Monday night.

On a broader scale, the Lake County Forest Preserve District just finished cutting down about 100 ash trees at Thunderhawk golf course in Beach Park.

Chuck Myers, assistant superintendent of natural resources, said the ash borers appear to be most concentrated in the Beach Park and Lake Forest areas.

The district will give away 60 trees at an Arbor Day activity April 30 and hope to spread the word.

"It's in potentially all of our preserves," Myers said. "We're trying to make homeowners aware what's coming their way."

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