WATERLOO, Iowa (AP) - There are no more ash trees along Willow Street.
They’ll soon be gone from Beech Street and even their namesake Ash Street.
The Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier reports (https://bit.ly/1iBDTMl ) city forestry crews last week began the systematic removal of every ash tree in the street right of way in a northeast neighborhood considered ground zero for the local emerald ash borer infestation.
City Forester Todd Derifield said workers on the first day were able to cut down 17 of 246 ash trees identified in the initial target area, generally bounded by U.S. Highway 63 on the west, Linden Avenue on the east, Gates Park on the north and the Canadian National Railway and Martin Luther King Jr. Drive on the south.
“We can’t get into the parks now, but those will be removed when conditions allow it,” said Derifield, referring to Sullivan, Lower Gates and Furgerson Fields parks.
Ultimately, the city expects to remove more than 4,000 trees from public property citywide.
The invasive Asian beetle, which is fatal to ash trees, was found in Waterloo in late January. EAB already has devastated urban forests across the Midwest since first rearing its head domestically a dozen years ago in Michigan.
Faced with an estimated $2.4 million cost to remove the trees, City Council members agreed to add another forestry position in next year’s city budget despite eliminating six public safety jobs.
Derifield is hoping his forestry workers can make a dent in the ash population before the outbreak gets out of hand. Private contractors might also have to be added to the mix.
“We’re going to try to absorb as much of (the removal) into our day-to-day operation as possible,” he said. “But at what point do the trees start dying faster than we can remove them?”
Waterloo forestry crews normally remove about 150 trees each year. The ash removal should go more quickly because the trees will be lined up on the same street. Stumps will be removed later.
Removal time for the first 246 trees will depend on Mother Nature and whether other forestry duties keep crews occupied.
“I hope it goes fast, but it’s a big question mark,” Derifield said. “We could get an ice storm and this would be on the back burner.”
Meanwhile, the city has no plans to replace the ash trees being removed.
“We are encouraging the adjacent property owner to replace them at their expense,” Derifield said. “We will help (with advice) but we can’t afford to buy all those tees.”
Ash trees on private property are the responsibility of the property owners. Treatments, which can be costly, are available to protect trees from infestation.
Information from: Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier, https://www.wcfcourier.com
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