Brashinger: Frankfort Township to remove infested trees
By Ginger Brashinger Citizen Journalistfirstname.lastname@example.org August 16, 2012 2:36PM
Frankfort Township Road Commissioner Bill Carlson will oversee the removal of about 2,500 trees in the unincorporated areas of Frankfort Township over the next two years, due to the emerald ash borer. | Supplied Photo
Updated: September 20, 2012 6:08AM
When Frankfort Township Highway Commissioner Bill Carlson heard about a little green bug on its way to the Lincolnway area, he decided to be proactive.
In 2006, Carlson attended an Illinois Department of Agriculture session about the emerald ash borer and learned how the insect had begun infesting ash trees in the northern suburbs.
It was working its way southwest.
“Prior to that, we had been putting in ash trees,” Carlson said. “They are healthy, hardy and kind of a quick-growing tree for a parkway. After the seminar, we stopped immediately.”
Carlson began to watch for signs of the insect in the nearly 2,500 ash trees on his watch in the unincorporated areas of Frankfort Township, especially Frankfort Square and Arbury Hills, which have hundreds of parkway ash trees.
Carlson said he first noticed “fatigue” in trees on Graceland and Jameson streets in Frankfort Square in fall 2011. An arborist confirmed his findings.
“Between October 2011 and April-May 2012, the trees went from 70 percent alive to 80 to 90 percent dead,” Carlson said.
He began his plan to remove all affected trees, something he believes will take two more summers. The township crew will remove most of the trees, and Homer Tree Service will remove larger ones marked with white paint.
Next year, Carlson said, the township plans to replace many of the trees with “at least six varieties” yet to be determined.
“It won’t necessarily be a tree-for-tree replacement,” Carlson said, adding the plan is to plant trees at a healthy spacing of 40 to 50 feet apart.
There are some exceptions to the program. Carlson said he will work with homeowners treating parkway ash trees that still appear to be healthy. Residents should call the township office to have those trees taken off the removal list.
Carlson said he thought about treating the trees, but the removal and replant plan will cost about $2 million, “maybe less,” compared to the $3.5 million it would cost to treat the trees, with no guarantee that any of them could be saved. Carlson said he had to think about the taxpayers.
“There will be zero extra tax burden, no special assessments,” Carlson said, adding the work was being done in-house out of the general road fund budget. “That’s why it’s going to take me over a two-season period to do this project. But I’m not, nor (will I) special-assess residents to do this project.”
Still, Carlson said there are several reasons to move forward as quickly as possible. He said an Aug. 4 storm was a recent example of the hazards that dead and dying trees can cause when felled trees and branches blocked streets, parkways and yards.
Carlson and his crew worked until midnight that Saturday and Sunday to clean up the mess, which likely will repeat itself after each storm until all the ash trees are removed.
Although the loss of so many trees will negatively affect the look of residential property, Carlson said homeowners can look forward to tree replacement that will restore their properties.
Carlson gets excited when he talks about the varieties of replacement trees from which he will choose as he works with local nurseries to provide good-sized trees (2 1/2- to 3 1/2-inch in diameter) that are not only drought-resistant, but attractive.
“I’ve thought it through quite a bit,” Carlson said, promising there will be “no silver maples. I don’t want to take trees down; unfortunately, we have to.”
For more information, call the Frankfort Township office at (708) 479-9673.