Vernon Hills' continuing assault on the emerald ash borer was made in a more visible locale Wednesday as crews removed trees from the decorative planter median on busy Butterfield Road.
"They talked about doing this work and got a nice day and jumped on it," said David Brown, village engineer and public works director. "We removed the green ash previously, now we're removing the white ash." When Butterfield was widened several years ago, Vernon Hills and other communities along the way paid a premium to have the median installed as a decorative element and agreed to assume maintenance for the plantings.
Trees there are part of what is known as the urban forest, and in Vernon Hills about one in four on public land are ash trees.
The village already has removed hundreds of trees, but this year and 2015 are the peak of what Brown has called the "exponential death curve."
This year, 1,130 ash trees have been removed and there are 200 replacements, representing about 15 varieties at the public works yard available for planting.
"We've done all the removals, we are currently stump grinding and planting," Brown said. "Our goal is to complete all the replacements by the end of June."
He said the removal of ash trees makes a noticeable difference in some neighborhoods, particularly older areas, such as the Deerpath subdivision south of Route 60.
"It was important to the village board to get those immediately replaced," he said.
Brown originally estimated the village would spend about $1.6 million on the ash borer removal/replacement program. But that has been revised to about $1.1 million, mainly because of what has or will be done in-house.
By 2016, Brown estimated there will be 460 ash trees on public property remaining.
"Once we get past these two years, it will be at a more manageable level," he said.
This summer, Libertyville, which is responsible for the planter on Butterfield between Route 137 and Golf Road, plans to remove about 10 ash trees.