WHEATON – City officials have accepted a plan to spend $3.2 million to take down more than 5,000 area trees affected by the emerald ash borer.
During a meeting Nov. 4, the council was presented with the large-scale plan to remove infected, dead and dying trees across the city during the next four years.
City Manager Don Rose said that in recent years – and last year in particular – the infestation has "exploded" in Wheaton. Previous city efforts include hiring a second business to help remove trees late last month.
About 1,000 trees in Wheaton have been taken down so far, but the city's proposal calls for the removal of as many as 5,512 more ashes. If the plan is adopted when the city sets its new budget early next year, about 728 trees identified as "severely infected" could be removed by April 2014. During the next three years, 975, 1,905 and 1,904 trees would be removed respectively.
The cost may be high, said Mayor Mike Gresk, but by implementing the proposal, the city could address a serious problem.
"The important thing here is that we are demonstrating that this is a major concern for us," he said."
According to the report and plan provided by consultant Graph Tree Care, the trees make up approximately a quarter of the city's tree population and 85 percent – about 4,700 trees – show signs of damage from the emerald ash borer. Additionly, about 1,800 trees have been identified to be in poor condition or dead.
"I suspect that trees in the moderate condition now, within two years, will be in severe condition," said Wheaton Forestry Superintendent Kevin Maloney. "They deteriorate pretty rapidly."
Another key element of the city's proposal is an additional $1.3 million of reforestation efforts, as well as the cost-sharing plan that the city already has in place for the purchase of new trees, Gresk said. That sum could increase as discussions on the plan continue, he said.
In the report, the city identified 5,291 suitable sites for reforestation, stressing the need for Wheaton to diversify its tree population.
"Some favorite species of yesteryear should be de-emphasized in favor of species which are native to the midwest," the report said.
No single tree genus should comprise more than 10 percent of the total city tree population, according to the report. Trees with weak structural wood or that produce messy fruit that attracts insects and invasive species should be avoided.
Councilman John Prendiville said that he would support a measure to have the city cover a large part of the cost of replacing the trees.
"I think trees are so important for so many reasons," he said. "We've got entire neighborhoods being devastated."
Current Wheaton tree conditions
Excellent - 6
Good - 1,283
Fair - 2,402
Poor - 1,500
Dead - 321
Emerald ash borer damage
None visible - 792
Moderate - 2,716
Severe - 2,004
Low - 3,470
Moderate - 1,336
High - 706
Reassess in one year - 3,809
Removal in one year - 975
Immediate removal - 728
Projected tree removal plan
• Year 1 (Oct. 2013 to April 2014) – 728 trees for estimated $388,600
• Year 2 (May 2014 to April 2015) – 975 trees for estimated $565,320
• Year 3 (May 2015 to April 2016) – 1,905 trees for estimated $1,141,245
• Year 4 (May 2016 to April 2017) – 1,904 trees for estimated $1,141,245
Identified trouble spots
• Oak Street east of Main Street
•Turf Lane, Countryside Drive and Ranch Road
• Farnham Lane
• Streams of Wheaton
• South of Seven Gables Park
• Farnham Lane, Briarcliffe south to Hawkins Circle