Interim Director of Public Works Robin Weaver broke the sobering news to council tonight: the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) is on the way, it’s closer than anyone thinks, and nothing anyone has done stops the 100% lethality of this pest. Evanston is getting hammered right now; hundreds of trees need removal, and their Public Works crews are swamped.
It’s all very sad. Ash trees had their foibles, but some, especially purple Ash, really are beautiful shade trees. Hardy, tolerant, robust, and completely vulnerable to a small bug from China. Probably the best way to know the EAB has arrived will be the tiny sideways ‘D’ holes in the tree, and the woodpeckers pecking away eating everyone they can find. Sorry, the woodpeckers don’t stop them either.
Public Works will be taking out 400-450 trees this year, trying to get ahead of the problem like everyone else did not. Replacing all those trees is going to cost money, and it is my intention to see what we residents might do to help lower the cost to the village. I’ll report in on this if/as things happen.
The good news is it is now policy to route sidewalks around non-ash, non-invasive mature trees whenever possible. The three block long project on Carpenter between 59th and 62nd originally called for the removal of 20 trees on the east side of the street. That is now down to two trees, and when the project is up for resident input I hope to save at least one more if possible.
This is a new attitude at Public Works. Before, residents had to know, had to go, had to protest removal of trees. Then, it was residents had to push our way into the process to save the tree(s) on our property, and then it was no sure thing. Miss the meeting due to work: bad things happen.
Now, I have been told, the project designers do that part automatically. Save the trees is the mantra; they count more than ruler straight sidewalks one foot off the property line. Mission accomplished.
The 18 trees saved on Carpenter translates into a street canopy that remains intact, and a $$ savings to the village of just over $7,500. For three blocks. Imagine if we had this policy in place when we started the sidewalk program.
We will still save ourselves tens of thousands of dollars moving forward, not to mention 40 years regrowing needlessly destroyed street canopies.