Bartlett woman rallies neighbors to fight emerald ash borer
It was June when Bartlett resident Amy Zinga first noticed a dead ash tree across the street from her house on Brookside Drive.
Concerned about the beauty of her quiet, tree-shaded street, Zinga asked an arborist to tell her what had killed the ash. The culprit was the emerald ash borer, a small metallic green beetle that experts say is responsible for destroying millions of ash trees across North America.
Zinga is now urging the village, which has yet to take action against the beetle, to protect Bartlett's remaining healthy ash trees with an insecticide that she says costs less than removing the trees when they die. And while she waits for the village to decide how to proceed, she's launched a campaign to save the trees in her neighborhood, regardless of what the village does.
Although many suburbs affected by the beetle opt to simply cut down ash trees, others, such as Joliet, Naperville, Rockford and St. Charles, have been testing insecticide on a handful of trees on municipal parkways with success.
"So far we're having good luck," said Ben Deutsch, arborist for St. Charles.
He said the city has been treating about 250 trees since spring 2009, but that a lot of homeowners are also treating trees on their own.
"Trees can do quite a bit if you catch it in time," he said. "If it's a heavy infestation and (Bartlett officials) haven't done anything yet, it (the outlook) is probably not good."
White larvae which hatch from eggs beetles leave on the bark hide inside ash trees. By the time the damage becomes visible after two or three years, the tree is usually too far gone to be treated.
Since June, Zinga learned there are about 190 ash trees in her Country Creek neighborhood, and that many of them, including one on her property, already have the pest inside. That's when she decided to take matters in her own hands.
"It's going to hit this town really hard and it's already starting. Not just my neighborhood, but other neighborhoods," Zinga said. "There's no reason for these trees to die. You can treat it."
Desperate, Zinga decided to reach out to the village for help. She wrote a letter to the village board and attended a village board meeting on July 19, where she addressed the threat of emerald ash borere in Bartlett and asked village officials about their action plan.
Zinga said the meeting went well and she met with Bartlett's public works director, Paul Kuster, and the village arborist, Keith Johnson, on Aug. 4 to discuss the issue in more depth. She brought along Rob Gorden from Arborjet, a company that makes an insecticide Zinga researched for many hours and confidently says is the best option for protecting ash trees.
"At the present time they have no plans to treat, but at least now they're weighing up options about the cost effectiveness of treating versus removal," she said.
Kuster and Johnson did not return Daily Herald phone calls.
"I can't speak for them, what they are going to decide, but regardless, I knew that we couldn't wait. These trees don't have that kind of time," Zinga said.
She recently handed out fliers to more than 300 households near her home, outlining a "Neighborhood Treatment Plan" to save the remaining healthy trees by injecting them with insecticide.
Homeowners interested in taking part in the plan buy treatments for ash trees on their property that are village-owned because they are in the parkways next to the street.
Zinga said it typically costs between $100 and $120 to inject one tree with Arborjet insecticide through a lawncare company such as TruGreen in West Chicago. The insecticide is said to last for two years.
"Annualize that — it's less than one monthly cable bill," Zinga said.
Zinga also set up a tree adoption program that would allow neighbors concerned about trees not on their property to pay for their treatment. She is hoping trees on corner lots or near unoccupied houses will be treated through adoption.
"The objective is just to save as many of these beautiful trees as possible," Zinga said, adding that through her research, she found that about 38 percent of the parkway trees in Bartlett are ash. "It's up to the residents right now to save these in our neighborhood."
Sharon Yiesla, plant clinic assistant at the Morton Arboretum, said because the threat is not projected to decrease for a few more years, it would be worthwhile to treat healthy trees now.
"Each tree's going to be different. If you have a tree that is a prized specimen and in good health, that doesn't have the borer yet, I would say that would be a great candidate for a treatment," she said, adding that research so far indicates injections like Arborjet's are more effective than drenches, an alternative treatment homeowners apply to the soil.
Last week, as part of her campaign Zinga staged a demonstration of the tree injection process to encourage Bartlett residents to treat the ash trees themselves instead of waiting for the village to take action.
Zinga said she received a lot of positive feedback after handing out fliers and about a dozen neighbors showed up.
Jeff Palmer, the upper Midwest regional sales manager for Arborjet, helped with the demonstration, which was done by arborists from TruGreen.
"The bottom line is, for the village to come in and remove and replace these trees, it'd cost them, on average, about $750 to $800," Palmer said. "Cities and villages can treat their trees for decades for what it costs to cut them down."
Zinga added that keeping the trees healthy will raise curb appeal to potential buyers, provide cleaner air and climate control, and help with rain water runoff protection.
"What you hear about this is all the negative, that this is an unstoppable bug. No it's not," Zinga said. "You can treat with insecticide. You can protect your trees and that's the word that needs to get out."
For more information, contact Zinga at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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