Village: Hundreds of ash trees set to be removed, more could follow

BOLINGBROOK – Just two years after the emerald ash borer invaded the outskirts of Bolingbrook, village officials now face a handful of dead trees and a potentially multi-million dollar ultimatum.

On Tuesday, June 11, the Bolingbrook Village Board approved a $65,980 expenditure to remove 142 trees infested with the emerald ash borer, an exotic beetle that lays eggs inside ash tree bark, eventually poisoning and killing its host.

The beetle is a threat to Bolingbrook's entire population of ash trees, about 36,000, according to Mayor Roger Claar, who insisted that the issue will take years to address and that the cost could be "astronomical."

"This is the first removal of many ash trees, unfortunately," Claar said, addressing the village board Tuesday. "We have been looking at this problem for a while, trying to figure out the proper way to address it."

Claar and the village board enlisted the services of local company Sebert Landscaping, which started to remove 87 dead and declining ash trees located in the center medians on Route 53, from Interstate 55 to Royce Road, this week. Sebert will then excavate about 55 trees along Boughton Road.

Bolingbrook Village Attorney Jim Boan said the ash tree removal process will follow an infestation path that travels southwest from the northeast part of town.

The 142 trees set be removed account for just 1.18 percent of the 12,000 ash trees in public property in Bolingbrook, and just .39 percent of the entire ash tree population in Bolingbrook, 36,000.

The village plans to assess each grove of ash trees on a case-by-case basis, determine the severity of the infestation, then decide whether or not to remove the trees, according to officials.

Since the emerald ash borer first arrived in Bolingbrook in 2011, village officials and local arborists have since theorized the most efficient way to combat an infestation.

In university trials, some granular and liquid insecticides were effective, but the same treatments failed at other sites, according to a study supported by the USDA Forest Service.

But, using insecticides is not a practical village-wide solution, Claar said, noting the high cost and the unproven success rate.

In the coming weeks, the village will formulate a plan to address the 24,000 trees situated in private and residential grounds.

Recently, in neighboring townships such as Lemont, local governments and homeowners have collaborated and shared some of the costs of removing dying and decaying ash trees and replanting new trees.

But, Bolingbrook is not quite ready to enact such a plan, according to village officials.

For now, Sebert crews will extract trees and stumps on public property, grounding each into mulch to allow for replacement planting. Caliper trees will replace the dead and declining ash trees.

Bolingbrook will pay Sebert Landscaping $85 per removed tree, and between $350 and $475 to replace each tree, amounting to a $65,980 for the first 142 trees.

The money will come from the village's landscaping budget, and Bolingbrook officials will then approve a transfer from contingency funds once initial funds run out.