Summary Assessment of Front Street Ash Trees
The 18 ash trees on Front Street have been review by several professional arborists, and representatives of the Department of Environmental Conservation, all of whom have determined that the trees are infested with Emerald Ash Borer (EAB). Because the trees were previously stressed for a number of reasons, the trees were easy targets for the EAB infestation. EAB can be treated by inoculating the trunks with a systemic insecticide, but to be effective, this treatment must reoccur every two to three years.
Several of the infected Ash trees have large dead branches, which if they fall are a safety hazard to pedestrians and motorists. A severe storm, especially a winter ice storm will likely bring those branches down.
Even if the trees are treated for EAB, the likelihood of them living beyond another 5 years, in their current stressed condition, is minimal. The reason for this is the conditions of the base of the trees, which include girdled roots; poor root pruning due to adjacent sidewalk work; undersized tree wells; and granite cobbles, placed evidently when the trees were young and now embedded in their roots. The last two issues are particularly bad, since the trunks and roots are growing into them causing poor moisture and nutrient uptake by the trees. Additionally, the trees have declined from improper pruning in the past.
A holistic approach to saving the trees would be costly, since it includes treating for the EAB infestation, pruning and shaping the tree canopies, enlarging tree well sizes in the sidewalk, removing the granite cobbles, and deep watering and fertilizing. Even with this holistic approach it is unlikely that the trees will live more than 10 more years. When asked for another solution, the last arborist to review the Ash trees provided the following recommendation:
1. “Safety prune” the trees to rid them of dead and dying branches, and lightly prune any branches that appear too heavy and may fall in a storm. Since any branches may be infested, when removed, they must be destroyed by chipping or burning so as not to spread the infestation. They must not be transported for use as firewood.
2. Deep root fertilization to give the trees a boost of healthy growth in the spring. (optional)
3. Plant one or two new trees, depending on available space, of another species between each of the existing ash trees. By planting new trees now, as the ash trees die, the new trees will become established. Waiting to plant new trees until after the Ash trees die and are taken down, will leave the street stark and barren. New trees should be planted in a condition that will ensure healthy growth and longevity, in properly prepared soil and in sidewalk cuts large enough to accommodate their growth to maturity. The CAC can provide a list of appropriate tree species for Front Street and description of proper tree planting practices.Lerner stressed that the Conservation Advisory Council (CAC) intends to devise a planting plan for Front Street that would insert new trees to be there when the existing ones die, but warned: "Given the multiple challenges of making that happen--which include getting the DPW to agree to proper cuts in the sidewalk; finding funding; getting buy-in from the adjacent property owners; the irrationality of the current city tree code that makes [property owners] responsible for the maintenance of trees planted in the public right of way--even this relatively modest project is going to be complicated and might take a year or two to accomplish."
Developing a tree strategy is expected to be discussed at the CAC's September meeting, which is scheduled for Tuesday, September 6, at 6 p.m., in City Hall.
COPYRIGHT 2016 CAROLE OSTERINK