Riverside residents will get very familiar with the buzz of chainsaws this summer after the village board on March 6 approved using $200,000 from its capital projects fund to pay for ash tree removal.
Village Forester Michael Collins confirmed last week that the money would allow the village to remove nearly all of the 566 ash trees that remain standing on public lands, apart from those in forested areas not typically used for recreational purposes.
“This should cover removing the majority of the ash trees,” said Collins.
Since the discovery of the emerald ash borer inside a Riverside tree back in December 2011, it has spread rapidly through the village. Back in 2006, the village reported 1,100 ash trees in its public inventory.
By 2012, that number was down to 846, according to Collins, as Riverside sought to begin removing what he termed “poor quality” trees prior to the arrival of the emerald ash borer.
In 2012 and 2013 the removal of ash trees accelerated. In 2013 alone, 299 ashes were removed from parkways and park areas (that number included 49 ash trees not previously listed in its public inventory). During a two-day period last September, crews removed 35 ash trees from Indian Gardens.
Going into 2014, the village was left with 566 ash trees in its official inventory.
“In 2006, by my estimation, I believed most everything should be standing dead this year,” said Collins. “My experience tells me that that statement is not completely true, but we’re trying to mitigate liability and increase public safety for residents.”
The snowy weather this winter has delayed tree removals in 2014, but during a brief warm up in February, crews were able to remove 10 of about 30 ash trees marked for removal in Swan Pond Park.
If an ash tree shows signs of dying due to an infestation, the tree will be removed this year, said Collins.
“My feeling is that symptoms are going to be fairly widespread this year,” Collins said. “You try to walk a line; you don’t want to remove a tree that still contributes or isn’t a safety risk.
“I’m trying to be as reasonable as I can.”
Riverside has been able partially to counteract the loss of so many ash trees with a parallel program of reforestation.
In 2012 and 2013, the village planted a total of 186 trees, representing a dozen different species, including catalpa, black walnut, black maple, chinquapin oak, linden, hackberry and others.
Many of the trees planted have been funded by donations. The Riverside Garden Club, for example, donated $5,000 toward tree planting last fall and a local Girl Scout, Shannon Layng raised $34,000 (including another $5,000 donation from the Garden Club) through an outreach effort she called A Century of Trees, which resulted in the planting of more than 100 trees on public parkways. The Frederick Law Olmsted Society contributed an additional $2,200 for tree planting in 2013.
Collins said he’ll continue to plant trees in 2014 by utilizing donations and the village’s cooperative tree-planting program. In addition, Collins hopes to set aside more money for reforestation by conserving funds now targeted for emergency tree removal. But much of that will depend on weather events this year.
“It’s vital to offset the losses and keep things green and foresty,” Collins said.
This story has been changed to correct a quote from Michael Collins regarding tree mortality and to add information about the olmsted Society’s 2013 donation for tree planting.