Tree experts urge Lake Forest residents act on ash trees now

In this story posted on the Lake County News-Sun, Davey’s Al Zelaya urges residents to protect their ash trees from emerald ash borer.
Read the story below or click here to see it as it was posted on the newspaper’s site.

Posted June 7, 2013

Saturday’s emerald ash borer workshop couldn’t have been timed better for Terrill Laughton.Al Zelaya

The Lake Forest resident has more than a dozen ash trees rimming his property in the 300 block of Washington Road and learned earlier in the week that the infestation that is affecting tens of thousands of ash trees in Lake Forest and Lake Bluff has spread to his property.

The five-year Lake Forest resident joined nearly 75 residents at the morning workshop at the Gorton Center to determine his best course of action.

“Some of them I will try to save, some of them I will take down,” he decided after listening to the workshop speakers. The cost of treatment to save trees he deems important to his landscape is not his concern.

“I’m more worried about the expense of having to take them down and the loss of the canopy,” he said.

Several landscaping companies nationally show estimates of about $1,000 per tree for removal, according to their websites. For residents like Laughton, that could mean roughly $6,000 if he is able to save half of his canopy.

Al Zelaya of Davey Tree Experts, the event’s keynote speaker, cautioned homeowners to act now.

“As ash trees decline, they become more brittle and removal becomes more costly,” he said.

The potential for breakage and falling limbs can affect neighboring properties and will make areas with brittle ash trees unusable.

“It’s in your best interest to plan early,” Zelaya said.

While infested trees in severe decline and unsafe should be removed immediately, there is no one approach to dealing with those that are unaffected or not badly damaged.

Zelaya suggested chemical treatment for: trees that are prominent in the landscape; mature trees that deliver ecological benefits like water absorption; situations where removal will be problematic; and if a homeowner is offsetting the cost by staging removal and replacement.

Pat Ryan, who lives on Forest Hill Road, has about 15 small ash trees left on her property after removing more than half a dozen. She chose this to minimize the spread of the infestation.

“We have no evidence of emerald ash borer,” she said. “But we’re watching them very carefully.”

Richard Chapman, a resident of West Fork Road for 33 years, faces the decision of what to do with the ash trees he paid for and the city planted in front of his house 10 years ago after he lost elm trees to Dutch elm disease. He also has ash trees in his backyard, which he said flourished once he lost his elm canopy.

Chapman can’t decide if he should treat the ash trees with chemicals.

“The downside is that I’m going to have to treat them as long as I live on that property,” he said.

Curt Volkmann, chairman of the Lake Forest Park Board, urged residents to look at the infestation as “an opportunity to re-green Lake Forest and Lake Bluff and diversify our plantings to be better prepared for the next generation of pests and diseases.”

President of Lake Forest Open Lands John Sentell suggests replanting with native trees — oaks, in particular — to return the tree canopy back to where it was more than 100 years ago when development and logging in the area began.

“I suggest giving a helping hand to nature and resetting the clock for native trees for next 200 years,” Sentell said.

City Forester Peter Gordon advised planting smaller oaks rather than larger more expensive specimens, since they acclimate better.

Gordon advised not to plant a new tree in the same spot where an ash tree was removed or too near other ash trees, which may have to be removed eventually.

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