Round Lake is losing the fight against the destructive emerald ash borer and officials say they are preparing to remove and replace hundreds of diseased trees.
The village board recently approved $91,000 for an urban forest management fund -- most to be used to target 500 blighted ash trees.
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Of the village's 6,000 parkway trees, 1,500 are ash trees, Mayor Dan MacGillis said. Many are in the village's newest subdivisions, and all will eventually succumb to the emerald ash borer, he said.
Public works Director Ron Kroop said it's a case for planning future tree diversity.
"Ash trees are about 25 percent of our parkway trees. We will not put ourselves in that position, going forward, of having that many eggs in one basket," Kroop said.
The removal and replacement of the dead or dying ash trees and 200 other trees killed by last year's drought would cost the village around $300,000 over three to four years, he said.
Round Lake is the latest Lake County community removing ash trees. Around 30 towns have evidence of the ash borer, according to the Illinois Department of Agriculture. Some including Vernon Hills and Libertyville have been removing ash trees for a few years.
Round Lake public works clerk Laura Bober said the emerald ash borer appeared in Lake County in 2006. Now, around 25 percent of the county's ash trees have evidence of the destructive insect.
MacGillis said the ash borer provides a tricky situation for local governments. In the case of Round Lake, there simply isn't enough money in the budget to fund all of the needed tree replacement, he said.
That's why the village is considering establishing a cost-sharing program with residents, Kroop said. If a resident wants to pay the full $300 it costs to remove a dead ash on their lawn and replant a new tree, they get priority over others who choose not to pay or to pay less, he said.
The emerald ash borer leaves little other option, Kroop said. Chemicals can be used to treat trees but they are expensive and have been proven only to prolong life, not rid the tree of the parasite permanently.
MacGillis said no new ash trees will be planted. Instead, a varied selection of tree saplings will be ordered from unspecified area nurseries to prevent further tree population decimation by one species of insect.
After more research and communication with the community, Kroop said, the village plans to start ash tree removal and replacement this fall.
"I'm excited about this. I'm very much a believer that trees add value and define the character of a community," Kroop said. "I don't want that to be a dead stick sticking out of the parkway."