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updated: 8/21/2012 2:43 PM

At ash borer 'ground zero,' landscape looks just fine

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  • A mature emerald ash borer on an ash tree in Campton Township, west of St. Charles.

      A mature emerald ash borer on an ash tree in Campton Township, west of St. Charles.
    DAILY HERALD FILE PHOTO

  • Doug Dirks looks out at the treescape in The Windings, near Lily Lake.

       Doug Dirks looks out at the treescape in The Windings, near Lily Lake.
    Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Dead ash trees dot the skyline in The Windings, which was ground zero for the emerald ash borer in 2006.

       Dead ash trees dot the skyline in The Windings, which was ground zero for the emerald ash borer in 2006.
    Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

 

How do things look at The Windings of Ferson Creek, the wooded subdivision where the emerald ash borer was first confirmed in Illinois six years ago?

Pretty good, thank you.

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Yes, the ash trees that were not treated or cut down are dead or dying.

But they were probably only 10 percent of the trees in this Kane County subdivision in unincorporated Campton Township just east of Route 47 and west of St. Charles.

The Windings is a poster child for the mantra of every arborist -- plant a diversity of trees.

Doug and Dorothy Dirks have lived in the Windings since 1998. He was chairman of the homeowners association's environmental committee when the infestation hit.

During a short tour of the 325-acre community of 380 homes, Dirks points out "skeletons" of dead ash trees.

But he has to point them out because the ash trees are often hidden among oak, maple, hickory, elm, walnut, birch, willow, various conifers and many other species. Some ash are a century old, others were later additions, and it's possible the developer planted ash trees on graded areas in the late 1960s when the community was developed.

The neighborhood looks like any wooded area that has dead trees here and there, nothing like a war zone.

The Dirks contracted to have eight ash trees on their property treated as soon as they learned about the scourge, and while a few are obviously under stress, all are still alive, and Doug Dirks expects most to survive.

"We used to hear woodpeckers in our front yard, and we don't any more," he said. Woodpeckers eating emerald ash borer larvae is often the first sign homeowners have of infestation.

The events of 2006 made Dirks -- whose large back yard is so wooded he has no idea how many trees are there -- aware of trees as living things that need care just as flowers and lawns do.

At first government officials thought the scourge was isolated and could be contained by cutting down trees.

They even found federal funds to remove 160 trees from the Windings and nearby areas.

They soon learned, however, that the little bug was already active in many suburbs.

"I'm not worried about losing our forest because we have diversity," said Dirks. "Diversity has saved the Windings. It's a lesson for a lot of agriculture, too, such as Illinois where we grow so much corn and soybeans."

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