Grant aims to replace threatened ash trees
FAIRFIELD — The Fairfield RAGBRAI executive committee understands the serious threat the emerald ash borer poses to the ash trees in Fairfield.
That is why the committee gave the Fairfield Park and Recreation Foundation $6,150 at Monday night’s city council meeting. The money will go toward purchasing trees to replace the ash trees in Central Park that could be lost to the emerald ash borer in the next three to five years. Central Park was the main hub for RAGBRAI activities this year, and the RAGBRAI executive committee hopes it will maintain its glory for future RAGBRAI stops.
City councilor Michael Halley said the Department of Natural Resources has told the council the situation does not look good for the city’s ash trees. He said the only known way to prevent all the trees from becoming infected with the emerald ash borers is to inject them with insecticide every year or two.
Halley said the city is not going to do that since the insecticide is expensive, not to mention toxic. He said residents of Fairfield could inject insecticide into the trees on their own property.
The DNR recommends removing small ash trees even if they are not infected. Halley said the city may do that with a few young ash trees in Central Park.
Half of the trees in Central Park are ash, including three of the four large trees in the corners of the park. Mayor Ed Malloy said Monday the council planted those ash trees many years ago after a disease wiped out the then-popular elm trees. Halley said the city is not going to make that same mistake. When it replaces the ash trees after they die, it will do so by planting a wide variety of tree species.
Halley said it is difficult to obtain grants for mono-species planting because people throughout the state and nation have realized the problem inherent in planting a single tree species.
Monday’s meeting was also significant because it marked the creation of the Fairfield Arbor Committee. The arbor committee will tackle issues such as how to replace the city’s ash trees as well as what to do about the city’s aging tree population.
The arbor committee members are Susan Romero, Alex Green, Ray Lehn and Kim Keller. Ex-oficio members who will not vote are Pam Craff, Derik Wulfekuhle and Scott Timm.
Halley said it’s possible the state will institute a quarantine on Jefferson County to prevent potentially infected ash wood from leaving the county. He said the insect moves slowly on its own, but can spread quickly if transported by humans.
He said the arbor committee will have to consider what will become of ash firewood in the city. He said it would be bad if it were taken to the city compost site, because a resident may take it out of town not knowing it was ash and that it was infected.
The emerald ash borer kills ash trees by laying its eggs beneath the tree’s bark. The larvae eat the nutrients under the bark in the shape of a ring around the tree, which prevents the roots from sending nutrients to the rest of the tree.