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updated: 10/22/2015 11:08 AM

Arlington Heights to stop helping residents treat ash trees for beetle

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  • Video: Ash treatment in question

  • Ed Michalski, pointing to the tag on his parkway tree, says he is frustrated because Arlington Heights will no longer help residents pay to treat ash trees on the parkways.

      Ed Michalski, pointing to the tag on his parkway tree, says he is frustrated because Arlington Heights will no longer help residents pay to treat ash trees on the parkways.
    Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • A tag installed by Sunrise Tree Care, the company treating some of the ash trees in Arlington Heights.

      A tag installed by Sunrise Tree Care, the company treating some of the ash trees in Arlington Heights.
    Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • The stump of an ash tree on Suffield Drive in Arlington Heights.

      The stump of an ash tree on Suffield Drive in Arlington Heights.
    Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

 

Since 2012 Arlington Heights and 2,400 residents have collaborated to treat parkway trees infected by the emerald ash borer, but the village has announced it is discontinuing the program.

The 50/50 program reimburses Arlington Heights residents half the cost of treating their infested parkway trees, up to $50 per tree.

Residents who have taken the rebate say the program is working, and their ash trees are living -- unlike thousands of untreated trees that have been cut down.

Treatments are done every two years -- 2012 and 2014 -- but the village will no longer reimburse in 2016.

Village officials said the program wasn't meant to keep the ash trees alive forever but instead slow the rate at which the village was having to take them down.

"It was a great program, but it's important to look at what the purpose of the program was. It was meant to help us get over the crest of the emerald ash borer hitting all of our trees at once," Village Manager Randy Recklaus said.

He said the village's overall strategy is to remove all the ash trees on Arlington Heights parkways and replace them with more diverse and less disease-prone species.

"The treatment program was never intended to be a permanent program. It was meant to buy us time so we could remove and replace trees at a reasonable pace," Recklaus said.

Recklaus said the village has spent $165,000 on ash borer treatments so far and that 2,400 households have taken advantage of the rebate.

A third round of treatments would cost the village $57,000, Recklaus said. When the second set of treatments was approved in 2014, it was made clear it would not be extended again, he said.

Residents, however, said in 2014 it was still unclear how well the treatments would work. Now, four years into the EAB treatments, residents say they are working almost completely.

"Since (the trees) did survive, the decision at this time to allow them to die seems unreasonable," resident Priscilla Hagglund said.

"It was a surprise and disappointment that the board was not willing to support residents who are willing and eager to save their beautiful and thriving ash trees."

Before the EAB invasion, Arlington Heights had 13,000 ash trees. After this season's removals, there will be about 3,200 left in the village, Recklaus said.

"We did grant one extension, but if we grant a third and fourth request, where does it stop?" Village President Tom Hayes said Monday.

"We very much appreciate the homeowners who were willing to help us save some forestry, but unfortunately we are going to have to turn that burden back over to the homeowner at this point on a 100 percent basis."

Of the 41 trees on Ed Michalski's street, 37 are ash -- and all 37 are still alive, he said.

Michalski is part of the Save Our Ash Coalition -- five Arlington Heights neighborhoods who came together to ask the village to help them treat their parkway trees.

"It would look like a tornado went through my neighborhood if you took all these trees out," Michalski said Wednesday.

"We are disappointed. We did not expect 'no' for an answer. If the trees are all viable and healthy, why wouldn't you keep treating them?"

Michalski said he will pay the full cost to keep treating the two ash trees in front of his house. He doesn't know if his neighbors will make the same choice.

"If I can save one tree, why not? But we need the village to stay a part of this partnership, not walk away from it," he said.

Laurie Taylor, president of the Northgate Civic Association, said she had hoped there would be a discussion before the village made a decision.

"I was taken aback when they said they had already decided not to extend it," she said. She would still like a chance to change their minds.

"We like Arlington Heights. We all want to be good neighbors," she said. "We just want to be able to have discussions, not just have a door closed in our face. It was pretty abrupt."

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