City struggles to remove dying ash trees, begins planting replacements

Friday, October 11, 2019
THE GREENING OF ALTA - Alta-Aurelia Plant Science students took class time today to assist the city in planting trees to replace some of the ash trees that have been lost to insects and disease over the last year. A variety of trees were obtained by the city, thanks to a grant received last year. / AA Schools photo

Doomed ash trees continue to be a daunting issue for the community of Alta, where the regionís first emerald ash borer infestation was confirmed in June, 2017. City officials estimate that 370-380 trees will need to be removed from public property and parkings.

The street department will begin removing trees that overhang the streets, after fall harvest traffic clears. Trees in other areas will be left until later if they donít present a hazard. The city is obtaining some land near the wastewater facility after the crop there is harvested, and can use that for storing trees that it takes down until they can be disposed of following DNR rules.

One resident asked the city council this week if the city would cover cost if he removed an ash tree while having work done on another tree on his property, but city officials feared that if they gave such permission, many other such requests would follow, getting in the way of the progression strategy the city is using. The resident asked about who would be held responsible if the tree fell before the city got around to removing it, and was told that it would have to be covered by his homeownerís insurance.

Dealing with dying trees will take many months, as the street department expects to be able to remove about 4-6 trees per week on top of other duties.

A few people have shown an interest in taking cut trees for firewood, and there is a possibility of a developer taking on trees to be chipped finely for use in bio-filters, which could reduce the cityís costs.

Wood from the infested ash trees cannot be taken out of the county unless it is ground finely to kill any larvae that may have been in the tree, according to rules designed to slow the spread of the emerald ash borer infestation.

Meanwhile, the city is also working to diversify the tree stock as the ashes die out. Twenty-eight trees have been purchased through a grant received last year, including six different species. The first of the trees were planted at the City Park this week, with students from the nearby high school helping.