GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - Along roads, through neighborhoods and around cities, ash trees survived generations of winters, countless thunderstorms and blistering heat. But in the end, they are no match for a metallic green beetle known as the Emerald Ash Borer.
Crews this week began cutting down 31 ash trees on Fuller Avenue between East Fulton and Michigan in Grand Rapids because they're infected and dying.
"It's a real loss. I mean, these trees in particular at one time provided a really nice arbor effect over Fuller Avenue," said Vic Foerster of West Michigan Tree Service. " It's a fairly large project, but it is actually just a small part of a larger project that the city is doing."
Since 2002, the invader species has killed more than 30 million ash trees in the state.
Emerald ash borer "was introduced into North America sometime in the 1990's. It was first reported killing ash (genus Fraxinus) trees in the Detroit and Windsor areas in 2002. Since then, infestations have been found throughout lower Michigan, Ohio, northern Indiana, the Chicago area, Maryland, and recently in Pennsylvania."
The devastation from the Emerald Ash Borer is now evident in every area of Grand Rapids. In the last two years, the city removed nearly 2,000 ash trees. About 1,500 are receiving pesticide treatment and are said to be responding well.
But since the discovery of the invader species, half of the city's 8,000 ash trees are gone. Beyond the loss of the trees, it's an expensive issue for the city.
Since 2007, according to the City of Grand Rapids website, about $600,000 has been spent on the removal and replacement of ash trees. Each tree that is cut down costs the city about $500. Treatment is $54 per tree, minus labor. And the trees have to be treated every two years.
Even though the city is well-practiced at removing ash trees, this particular stretch along Fuller Avenue is more difficult. Two lanes of traffic on a vital artery were shut down to accommodate the tree crews.
A diversity of tree species will be replanted in that area next year. The community will be invited to provide input and feedback for what should be replanted in that stretch.
In August, foresters from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Michigan Technological University announced an examination of more than 30,000 acres of state forest land for signs of the emerald ash borer and beech bark disease.
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