Traffic will be rerouted around the 200 block of Third Street in Marietta next week while a massive white ash tree is taken down in advance of the inexorable march of the emerald ash borer.
"Knowing that this tree is going to eventually die and fall, we're trying to get ahead of it," Mayor Michael Mullen said. "You hate to see it go but this is just about being proactive."
It's also about saving money, since American Electric Power has offered to remove the tree - estimated to be about 80 feet tall - at no cost to the city, due to its proximity to power lines.
EVAN BEVINS The Marietta Times
The approximately 80-foot-tall white ash tree near the Colony Theatre on Third Street in Marietta will be taken down next week as part of the city’s strategy to remove ash trees that pose hazards if they fall victim to the emerald ash borer.
The city has been setting aside funds, including a state grant, to address the threat of the emerald ash borer, a beetle whose larvae hatch in the trees and burrow out of the bark, eventually killing the trees. This removal would have used up most of that $37,500 grant had AEP Ohio not made the offer, said Julia Paugstat, chairwoman of the Marietta Tree Commission.
Workers from AEP Ohio and Asplundh will work on cutting the tree from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. starting Monday, with City of Marietta workers coming in at 4 to remove the debris. Once they're done, traffic will be reopened on Third Street until the next morning.
Traffic is expected to be blocked Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, although the work could take more or less time than that, said Jim Kidd, assistant traffic superintendent for the city. Weather will be a factor.
- The 200 block of Third Street will be closed from 6 a.m. to approximately 6 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, while AEP Ohio, Asplundh and City of Marietta workers remove a massive white ash tree.
- The recommended detour for westbound traffic on Third Street is Butler to Second Street.
- The recommended detour for eastbound traffic is Scammel to Second Street.
Dr. Charles W. Merrill, whose office is just two doors down from the massive tree, said he's not sure what the impact will be on his business.
"Those are my three busiest days," he said.
Merrill said patients can park on Second Street but he hopes they will be able to walk on the sidewalk, a portion of which will be closed.
Advantage Bank President Mike Iaderosa said he does not expect too many problems for the bank since local traffic will be allowed on a portion of Third Street and there is also access from an alley.
Kidd said the official detour will route westbound traffic on Third Street along Butler and onto Second Street, while eastbound traffic is asked to go from Third to Scammel to Second. He said Putnam Street is not part of the recommended detour because the city does not want to have a lot of large trucks going along its brick streets.
Fish 'N Stuff employee Teresa Etter said the closure will probably make it more difficult for customers to get to the business, which is located on the corner of Third and Putnam streets. She's also concerned about the creatures that call the tree home.
"There's a big old squirrel that lives there and I feed him," said Etter, 57, of Marietta. "I hope Chucky can find a new home."
Etter wasn't the only person downtown Tuesday that said they'd be sorry to see the tree go. But most reluctantly agreed it was for the best.
Marietta Tree Commission member Marilyn Ortt said it's unfortunate that the spread of the emerald ash borer has made the removal necessary.
"We have a responsibility to keep these big trees from becoming hazardous trees," she said.
The insect has been found in 50 of Ohio's 88 counties but all counties have been quarantined by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, a signal that the spread is considered all but inevitable.
"There's no reason to think it won't get here in four or five years, maybe sooner if people are irresponsible about transporting firewood," Ortt said.
Transporting firewood between counties is blamed for contributing to the spread and is still not recommended, even though all counties are now quarantined. It is illegal to transport ash or any hard firewood to another state.
Ortt said she's not sure how old the tree is but she and foresters who have looked at it have estimated the age at anywhere from 80 to 120 years.
Paugstat noted the grant the city received to address ash trees can also be used to plant new trees, although not ash. Ortt said if one is planted on Third Street after this one is removed, it should be called "the White Ash Memorial Tree."
"As you go around the city, it's amazing from how many vantage points you can see that tree," she said.