The City of Fremont now has an official plan of attack for addressing the little green bug wreaking havoc on ash trees across the country.
The Fremont City Council approved a resolution to adopt the Emerald Ash Borer Plan at its meeting on Tuesday. The plan was approved by a unanimous 7-0 vote by the Council, with Councilmember Matt Bechtel not in attendance.
The plan calls for the removal and replanting of ash trees in public spaces, including city parks and rights-of-way, over the next 10 years.
“We came up with this plan to be proactive and hopefully address the issue before it becomes a problem in Fremont,” Director of Parks and Recreation Kim Koski said at the meeting. “Our plan is to create a tree inventory, see where the trees are that need to be removed, and plan for replanting over the next 10 years.”
The Emerald Ash Borer is an invasive species of beetle that was first found infesting ash trees in the Detroit, Michigan area in 2002. The Nebraska Department of Agriculture confirmed that the Emerald Ash Borer was discovered during a site inspection in Omaha’s Pulaski Park in June 2016.
In July 2016, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, a department of the United States Department of Agriculture, issued a federal order to quarantine Cass, Dodge, Douglas, Sarpy and Washington counties.
“Dodge County has been quarantined, and so it is just a matter of time before it gets here,” Koski said.
The first step of the new Emerald Ash Borer Plan is to complete an inventory and map this summer of all public ash trees in Fremont.
According to information released by the Fremont Parks and Recreation Department, a preliminary inventory includes 600 trees in city rights-of-way between city streets and sidewalks, 100 trees in city parks, and almost 200 trees in city rights-of-way under electrical lines.
“The inventory will help us see where the trees are that need to be removed and to plan for replanting,” Koski said. “It’s over a 10-year period and with the inventory we will see which trees are in worse shape and start there. We have seen people who have done the clear cut and they have no trees now, so we definitely don’t want to do that.”
According to the plan, ash trees in city rights-of-way will be removed free of charge. As far as on private property, city plans to make available a disposal site for ash trees as well as create a remove-and-replace program known as Trees for Fremont.
“As far as handling trees from the public, if they have to pay to get their trees taken down that is going to be pretty costly for them,” Koski said. “So we are going to possibly open the tree dump during the summer … to help us monitor the trees that are coming in.”
During council discussion over the resolution, Council President Scott Schaller asked for clarification on what the plan means for private residents and their options in dealing with the Emerald Ash Borer.
“This does not prevent any homeowner from treating their trees if they want to treat their trees?” asked Schaller of Koski.
“Not at all,” Koski responded. “Part of the plan is to educate the community and have pamphlets and flyers to let them (the public) know their options, and let them know that we are not just going to cut them or come clear cut every tree in Fremont, it is going to be a process.”
Councilmember Susan Jacobus offered a similar question to Koski regarding the replacement of ash trees that are to be taken down in rights-of-way.
“Should a person have a tree taken down in the right-of-way, are they given a free tree to plant?” she asked.
“I wouldn’t say free,” Koski responded. “In the past with the Trees for Fremont program we have sold trees for $35 apiece, and that is what we are working on as far as grants and other funding to allow people to purchase saplings at a reasonable price.”
Koski added that the prospect of attempting to chemically treat all of the city’s ash trees, instead of cutting and replanting, would be a costly endeavor.
She said depending on the size of the tree, chemical treatments cost anywhere from $150-400 per tree. She also added that depending on which chemical is used, treatments have to be done either annually or biannually throughout the life of the tree.
“With our 100 trees in the parks and 600 in the rights-of way, that is pretty expensive—anywhere from $90,000 to 150,000 depending on the chemical and how many times we have to treat it,” she said.