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Aurora crews backlogged on ash tree removal

A Smitty's Tree Service crew member works cut branches off fallen ash tree Monday 2000 block Illinois Avenue. Around 20

A Smitty's Tree Service crew member works to cut branches off a fallen ash tree on Monday in the 2000 block of Illinois Avenue. Around 20 ash trees are being cut down due to emerald ash borer infestation. Jeff Cagle / For Sun-Times Media

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What you
can do to help

Here is some advice on dealing with the emerald ash borer for residents who have ash trees on their property:

Do not transport firewood: Emerald ash borers can be transported in ash logs easily. Purchase firewood locally from a known source and be sure to use all of the firewood in the cold months so that no hidden emerald ash borer larvae or adults can survive on logs left through the spring.

Monitor the health of your ash trees: Look for dead and dying branches at the top of the tree’s crown. If you suspect an ash tree located in the parkway seems sick or needs maintenance, call your city’s department of public works.

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Updated: November 30, 2011 12:33AM

AURORA — Emerald ash borers are hitting the city’s tree population hard.

In the next five to 10 years, Aurora will be losing ground on the city’s tree population because of the setback from the insects, according to Bill Pauley, the city’s certified arborist and Street Department supervisor.

“It is a very noticeable loss of trees, but there is nothing we can do about it,” Pauley said at a City Tree Board meeting Monday.

Pauley said the city fielded dozens of calls about a stretch of ash trees along West Illinois Avenue from Redwood to Laurel drives as it began cutting down those trees Monday. He said there are several more ash trees a block away.

So far in 2011, Pauley estimated the city has removed about 600 ash trees. He said trees at another 100 sites are on the city’s list for removal.

“It’s a work in progress. We’re doing the best we can and we’ll continue to work through the winter,” Pauley said.

The city is removing 10 times the normal number of trees to keep up with emerald ash borer infestations.

“We’re proactively marking trees for removal in some areas,” Pauley said.

Emerald ash borers have taken over trees in several Aurora neighborhoods. The beetle only attacks ash trees, burrowing tunnels underneath the bark and cutting off the flow of nutrients, eventually killing the tree.

Many other towns in the Chicago area are dealing with similar problems, noted city spokesman Kevin Stahr.

After trees are removed, they are taken to one of three marshland yards that accept contaminated trees. Then the trees are double-ground so the insects can’t survive the process.

The city’s five-year plan calls for Aurora crews to plant 1,250 trees between 2008 and 2012. The plan calls for 23 different varieties of trees to be planted.

Several Boy Scouts have made it their Eagle Scout project to plant 50 trees in the community for city crews. This summer 50 trees were planted at Phillips Park along Smith Boulevard south of Morningside Drive in anticipation of ash tree removal. Another planting in October will be around the golf course at the Fox Valley Country Club.

“If fall planting goes well, all of this year’s trees will be in the ground by Thanksgiving,” Pauley said.

Friends of Phillips Park has also committed to paying for and planting five to 10 trees of the city’s choosing.

Stahr said removing trees on private property is the owner’s responsibility. The city encourages residents to work with companies that are licensed and insured, and have an arborist on staff certified by the International Society of Arboriculture.

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