Government

Cedar Rapids thins swath of ash trees as part of plan

Proactive removal helps city cope with emerald ash borer

Cedar Rapids Forestry Department trimmer Joe Werling cuts the remaining trunk after removal of an ash tree along Boyson Road NE in Cedar Rapids on Monday, April 23, 2018. Some of the ash trees along the road were removed as part of the city’s emerald ash borer mitigation program. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Cedar Rapids Forestry Department trimmer Joe Werling cuts the remaining trunk after removal of an ash tree along Boyson Road NE in Cedar Rapids on Monday, April 23, 2018. Some of the ash trees along the road were removed as part of the city’s emerald ash borer mitigation program. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — City forestry workers cut down 15 ash trees Monday along a segment of Boyson Road NE and a nearby neighborhood as part of the strategy for dealing with emerald ash borer, an exotic beetle whose larvae eats away ash trees from within.

Joe Werling, a trimmer, slowly worked a chain saw through a stump leaving the remains just above grass level across near Bowman Woods Elementary, while Josh Lovejoy maneuvered a hydraulic claw to hoist the trunk and stump into the back of a truck. Grant Dancey, another trimmer, raked up the debris and cleaned up the street with a leaf blower.

“It’s gone a lot faster than we expected,” said Werling, who along with his crew were finishing cleaning up the last tree toward the end of the noon hour.

While the removal is noticeable, not all ash trees were cut down. A canopy of taller, healthy ash remain along Boyson and 21 new trees of several varieties, such as oak and elm, are to be planted Saturday.

“The idea was to leave the bigger ash and give the younger trees a chance to grow before the rest of the ash have to come out,” said Todd Fagan, the city arborist.

Work is expected to continue Tuesday to grind down the stumps. The work requires the closure of Boyson between Brentwood Drive and Kent Drive, though only between 9 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. to allow drop off and pick up at Bowman Woods Elementary. If necessary, the road may be closed again Wednesday to finish the project.

The trees are being “removed proactively to limit the spread” of emerald ash borer, city officials have said. The removal is in accordance with the city’s management plan for the pest.

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About 300 ash trees in the city have been taken out so far this year, and more will be removed throughout the year. On average, the city removes about 1,000 trees a year, typically those that are decaying.

Cedar Rapids officials last year announced they had found a tree infested with emerald ash borer. It was the second such discovery in less than two years in the city. Since then, pockets of infested trees have been found along Edgewood Road NW between Ellis Boulevard and O Avenue and near Glass Road, Fagan said. Many of those ash trees have been cleared, he said.

Roughly 17 percent or about 7,400 of the city’s 43,000 trees are ash, according to city’s tree inventory. The strategy is to inspect them, remove ones that are deteriorating and treat some to help stagger the decline.

The city has been bracing for the arrival of emerald ash borer by diversifying its tree stock through planting 25 to 30 different species.

Earlier this month, state officials announced cases of emerald ash borer had been found in Carroll and Taylor counties, bringing the total to 57 of 99 counties with confirmed cases since the pest was spotted in the state in 2011.

l Comments: (319) 339-3177; rian.morelli@thegazette.com

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