In an effort to confront the destruction of ash trees by the invading Emerald Ash Borer – an insect which came to North America from China in the mid 90’s ensconced in wooden crates – the WPA has taken a measured, progressive approach.
All trees will mature, die and fall to the ground at some point, but what makes ash trees more problematic is that they become very brittle and the larger limbs will fall, usually during storms or high winds, but sometimes with little natural provocation. While Alice Newton Street Park (ANSP) has a low ratio of ash compared to other species, we attempted to identify those trees whose limbs might impact the hiking trails. We then walked the park with 2 arborists and UConn forestry professor, Tom Worsley.
They all concurred that we hire a forester – someone who would oversee any tree removal and ensure that the least number of diseased trees be removed. The problem here was that the teams doing the actual cutting generally want to harvest much more than just ash to defray the cost of their labors, greatly affecting the overall flora for a minimum of several years.
After interviewing several foresters, we decide to engage Jim Rossom of Bethany to perform the work. From an initial estimate of removing 100-200 trees, we were able to pare that down to 40 or so, with a few additional trees that Mike Walter, our Trailmaster, deemed necessary. Most of what was cut was removed by Jim, with small equipment, thus minimizing any adverse impact on the trails. We specifically exempted from this tree-removal a number of older, healthy, grand ash trees that we thought might survive.
To that end, we hired arborist Jim Dean from Hamden to inject the trees, inoculating them against the Borer. This method was preferred over drenching the area with insecticide, which would be absorbed through the ground, into the roots and up into the tree. The injection method keeps the insecticide in the tree and presents much less impact upon pollinators. Nine trees in all were selected for injection, and all seemed to be doing well as of this writing.
Lastly, in order to try and monitor the scope of the EAB invasion in the park, we ordered from Colorado traps & lures to catch some of the culprits (the states of Michigan, Minnesota, Illinois, Wisconsin and Colorado have been at the forefront of EAB research and preventative measures). Nate Case installed them this past summer but the results thus far have been inconclusive – only a few borers have been caught. We will repeat the process again with new lures next spring, when the borers are most active.
Our goal through all of this was to address the problem by learning as much as possible regarding our options for the trees. Through many conversations and much research, we arrived at a cost-effective and minimally disruptive program to effectively monitor and ensure safety on the trails in our park.