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New Berlin's public golf course deals with impact of tree-killing ash borer

Feb. 24, 2014

New Berlin — More than 200 ash trees on the New Berlin Hills golf course will be cut down soon due to an emerald ash borer infestation.

Since it was discovered in Michigan in 2002, the beetle has denuded cities of ash trees everywhere as it slowly spread to other states. After confirmed infestations in the Milwaukee metro area over the past five years, it was found last summer in four widely separated locations in New Berlin.

The public golf course, at 13175 W. Graham St., was not among those locations at the time.

Sad reality

While many of roughly 200 ash trees within the golf course grounds are in the more heavily wooded areas, about a third of them provide leafy canopy along the fairways and areas outside the woods, contributing to the facility's beauty, said city forester Paul Fliss.

Course officials and the city's Golf Course Committee are both surprised and sudden by the extent of the ash borer problem at the facility.

"We were shocked," said John Rader, the course general manager and vice president of Green Golf Partners, which runs the public course for the city.

Rader said he will be especially sad to see the three ash trees between the first and second holes cut down.

"Those have been a staple there," Rader said. "It will look a lot more wide open (without them)."

Another noticeable loss will be a line of up to 60 ash trees stretching longer than a football field near a creek between the third and fourth holes, he said.

"All will have to go," he said.

Crews with chain saws would have already gone to work, but the weather held them off, Rader said. The cutting is expected to start soon.

Restoration steps

As of now, the only ash trees expected to survive are those that get expensive treatment. At this point, only four are slated to be so treated, Rader said, but the number could eventually be increased.

Golf course officials are already working on restoring the course with other trees.

"The Golf Committee is working with the arborist on a replanting program. We love trees, obviously," Rader said.

The new trees will be of varying kinds, a strategy designed to avoid the situation communities face with the ash borer — in which one scourge can decimate a large percentage of trees in any one place.

Although the three large ash between the first and second holes may be replaced this spring, it may take a while for additional replantings, Fliss said. A master planting plan must be developed first and that won't be until next year, after a tree inventory is completed this year.

New Berlin has been divided into areas and this summer residents will see people counting trees of all kinds along streets and in parks, Fliss said. With the inventory it will be much easier to have a solid replanting and forestry management plan, he added.

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