New Berlin turns to ash trees, now a threatened species
City puts its plan into action with discovery of emerald ash borer
New Berlin — The city, which drew up a battle plan last fall to meet the inevitable assault of the devastating emerald ash borer, is already prepared to put that plan into action.
The beetle that has denuded communities of their ash trees in several other states has now been found in four widely scattered locations in New Berlin, it was announced this month.
While the city is advising residents to start treating any ash trees they want to keep, ultimately there is no stopping the scourge in terms of pest eradication, said New Berlin forester Paul Fliss.
"It's 100 percent fatal to (untreated) ash trees," he said, "and it's here."
Five-piece plan of attack
The city itself is already treating 144 valuable ash trees on public grounds. That's as many as the city can currently afford to treat, Fliss said.
"These are high-quality trees," he said, because of their form, other attributes or location.
Otherwise, the city is poised to proceed with its five-phase battle plan for public trees.
The plan starts with removing all ash trees on public land on the city's more rural west side. The mass removal there will be less keenly felt in rural areas because there are so many other trees present, the plan explains.
(The massive clear-cutting of ash trees that other communities did to try to get rid of the emerald ash borer will not happen in New Berlin, Fliss assured, noting that such eradication attempts failed.)
The rural removals will take place through four of the five phases. The first phase also will take ash trees in any area that are a threat to public health in terms of falling limbs or large branches.
In the second phase, the city will move into subdivisions. But instead of cutting down ash trees that have obvious defects or are in poor condition for whatever reason, the city will give people who live next to the trees a choice about whether they should be cut down immediately.
"We're not going to shove it down people's throats," Fliss said. "Maybe they can realize the benefits of the trees for years."
The third phase three will involve taking public trees that are likely to cause a threat because they are unhealthy. Those living next to them will be given the option of saving the trees by treating them, however.
The last phase will be cutting down untreated public trees.
Ash trees on private property are not part of the city's plan.
"People will deal with their own trees," Fliss said, noting that the only exception would be removal of a tree that could be a public hazard.
Before anything happens, all public trees will be inventoried and assessed as to health and other factors.
Fliss estimates that more than 12 percent of New Berlin's canopy consists of ash trees. The 12 percent figure goes up to 19 percent for the parks, Fliss said.
Some areas have more than others, said Alderwoman Laura Karvala, who said the Glen Park neighborhood south of the New Berlin City Center is "loaded with ash trees."
Karvala said she cut down 32 small ash trees in her yard alone.
At Linfield and Wilshire drives, Weatherstone Park has already been targeted because 80 percent of its trees are ash, Fliss said.
The city cut down 22 trees at Weatherstone Park because they were too close to a new playground or were in poor condition, Fliss said. The city then planted 122 trees there, not only as replacements but to give new trees a start before additional ash trees are removed.
Budgeting for it all
Money is a factor in the city's efforts.
To cover the costs of its inventory efforts, city officials hope to get a 50 percent matching state grant. They will be notified in December if the city will get the grant.
The city will be able to plant replacement trees in parks and in subdivisions with money in the city's tree mitigation fund. Developers pay into the fund for any trees they cut down and cannot replace.
That fund might run out, however, with the massive demands that will be put on it, said Mark Schroeder, parks, recreation and forestry director. So, the city will again explore the possibility of grants, he said.
What is of more concern, however, is how the city is going to afford to cut down all the diseased ash trees, officials said.
City departments have lived with zero increase budgets for at least three years and there isn't money for the emerald ash borer fight, Schroeder said. The city was only able to begin to treat the trees that it has because it landed a grant for the needed equipment, he explained.
The streets department is even falling behind on its normal work, Fliss said, and can't take on the extensive tree-cutting that will be required.
He is recommending hiring certified tree service companies to deal with the trees.
Fliss also recommends certified tree companies to residents who have to take down their sickened ash trees. Certified tree service companies carry insurance and are more likely to observe safety guidelines, he said.
AT A GLANCE
The websites the city recommends to residents for getting information about the emerald ash borer are:
Or people can call the New Berlin Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department at (262) 797-2443 or contact the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources EAB Hotline at (800) 462-2803.
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