How emerald ash borer affected Kane County communities
Ever since the emerald ash borer first arrived in Kane County in 2006, every day has been Arbor Day and Earth Day for residents and municipal leaders.
The little green pest has chewed into and destroyed thousands of ash trees and the urban forest, forcing many public works employees to cut them down and replace them.
In Geneva alone, nearly 2,800 stately trees that lined streets were killed.
"We still have about 60 to 70 trees left that the ash borer killed," said Kevin Stahr, the city's communication's coordinator. "Some residents want to treat them and see if they can bring them back. We'll probably end up cutting down half of them."
West Dundee also lost more than 900, or one out of six, ash trees that were popular parkway plantings in the 1970s. Like Geneva, they have been replacing them with different species.
"Last year, we cut down 146 trees," said public works director Eric Babcock. "Every year, we have been cutting down the affected trees. We have been able to keep up with the work, and last year I feel we've turned the corner."
This year, West Dundee will spend $35,000 on its tree replacement program. No numbers have been set, but those trees will be placed between the street and sidewalks in the fall, months after Arbor Day, which is Friday, April 27.
"We always prefer the fall growing season to plant out trees," he said.
Geneva public works employees are planning to plant their trees this month.
Residents can be assured they will not be more ash trees. State environmental officials have outlawed the planting of ash trees in Illinois to avoid another infestation of the emerald ash borer.
The borer is a green insect that came to North America in 2002. It digs a hole in the tree just below the soil line and creeps up the layer under the bark. Not only does it infect trees, but it destroys the plant's ability to take up water.
When it exits a tree, the borer leaves a "D" shape hole in its stem.
A variety of replacement trees are planted in communities, so one disease or insect no longer causes such devastation.
Since it arrived in North America, more than 1 million ash trees have been cut down in the Midwest. Five thousands of those trees were in the city of Elgin, a municipal-sponsored website states. City forestry employees have treated 1,600 others with the hopes they will survive.
Meanwhile, community leaders have programs to involve residents in replacing them on public property and reviving their urban forests. Geneva, and West Dundee have programs that allow homeowners to pay half the price of trees.
"We plant trees that are from two and a half in to three and a half in caliper for parkway trees," Babcock said. Caliper is measurement for trees.
In Geneva, residents pay $150 for the tree and the city picks up the remainder of the cost.
A list of the trees residents can select can be found at: www.geneva.il.us/552/Parkway-Tree-Replacement-Program and www.wdundee.org/?page=public-works.
Elgin officials give residents a choice of requesting a tree to be planted in the parkway in front of their homes or purchasing a tree and planting it themselves.
For details about the program, visit the city's website at www.cityofelgin.org/index.aspx?NID=467.
State forestry officials are still urging residents to look at their ash trees for borer damage. They also remind residents not to bring firewood into Illinois from another state. That may have been the cause of the infestation.
Details about the emerald ash borer can be viewed at the Illinois Department of Agriculture's website.