Trees are often taken for granted but every once in awhile someone looks up at the white ash tree at 231 Third St. and says "That is a big tree!"
Because the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) is advancing from the north and west of Washington County, it is time to say goodbye to this very large tree. First found in northwestern Ohio in 2003, the devastation to ash trees by the EAB continues.
Woodpeckers, fungi, disease and other possible limiting factors have not yet been effective in controlling this invasive species that apparently entered this country in shipping containers.
In 2007, the Marietta City Tree Commission, following the advice of the Division of Forestry - ODNR, developed a response plan so that the city would not be caught unprepared as it was when the American elms were devastated by the Dutch elm disease about 60 years ago.
At least a million ash trees have already been killed by the merciless advance of EAB in fewer than 10 years. Sixty million trees in 15 states killed! EAB has not yet been found in this part of the state but it comes closer each year.
Movement of firewood from one part of the state to another is facilitating the advance of the EAB. The entire state is now under quarantine; no firewood should be moved internally.
In 2007, there were about 200 ash trees on public land and right-of-way in the city. Privately owned ash trees are, of course, the responsibility of the landowner.
The onslaught of numerous suddenly-hazardous trees and the expense of removing so many at once would be devastating to the city budget even in good times.
Dr. Steve Spilatro, chair of the Commission at that time, wrote the plan which was adopted by City Council. An EAB Management Fund would be established with an appropriation each year for removals and for new trees to be planted.
Small trees (up to 4 inches in diameter) would be allowed to grow until the EAB is on the doorstep since they could be quickly removed by city crews. About fifteen percent of trees up to about 12 inches in diameter would be removed each year by volunteers and city crews. Since these trees could be expected to continue growing at a good pace, they could soon be beyond the size city crews could have removed at that time. Trees selected for removal would be scattered around the city so that no neighborhood would bear the brunt of the loss of many trees at a time.
At that time, it was assumed trees over about 12 inches in diameter would have to be removed by contractors. However, the city now has several trained tree workers on staff and they are able to remove most of the larger ash trees where there are not complicating circumstances. About a dozen of these larger trees were selected this year based on their condition and location.
City crews will be able to remove most of these but two require larger equipment than the city has. The city was awarded a $15,457. grant from ODNR to help cover some removal costs and to put toward re-planting.
And thus, we get to the huge ash tree at 231 Third St. Bids for removal indicated most of the grant money would be spent on this one tree.
AEP was contacted since there are electric lines near the tree and they have assisted the city tree program by removing some other problem trees under electric lines. AEP's goal is to avoid any threat to electric service.
The acquisition of a higher bucket truck has made it possible for Asplundh, their contractor, to remove a tree of this size.
This is a huge commitment. Three crews of two members each will be working on the removal. Work will begin about 6:30 a.m. each day so that city crews can get in about 4 to remove the wood. Third Street will have to be closed while most of the work is being done.
An on-site planning meeting with Rich Simpson, AEP Forestry supervisor; Dave Fuller, AEP forester for this region; Jeff Anderson, Asplundh General foreman; Al Miller, Marietta safety-service director and a member of the tree commission ended with assignments and responsibilities for each.
Monday, Aug. 15, is the current target assuming no storms create more maintenance work the crews will have to deal with first.
This contribution to the Marietta Tree Program is enormous and AEP should be recognized for their generosity.
Meanwhile, to those who enjoy our green canopy, the change will be striking since this tree is visible from so many directions.
The effect on wildlife will also be significant. At least 21 species of moths and butterflies use ash trees as their host larval plant. This means less food for warblers and other birds that glean caterpillars from the tree canopies. The domino-effect that the removal of so many trees in just a few short years will have to the city and our quality of life is sobering.
In the meantime, appreciate the remaining ash trees while we can and bid farewell to those that have stood and served the city so well.
Marilyn Ortt of 701 Colegate Drive, Marietta, is a member of the Marietta City Tree Commission. Our Earth appears on alternate weeks in the weekend edition.