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Associated Press
A stump is all that’s left of a diseased ash tree Thursday in Elkhart’s American Park, one of 59 trees cut down in the park because emerald ash borer infestation. The stumps will be removed later.

Elkhart fells 59 trees to foil pest

Also planting to undo damage left by ash borer

– The city of Elkhart’s forestry division has once again ramped up its war on the emerald ash borer, and the latest victims are 59 ash trees in American Park.

But the era of mass eradication may be close to concluding.

The city has worked for several years to fight the infestation of the emerald ash borer by removing seriously damaged trees while also trying to treat trees that could still be saved.

But at the same time, the forestry division, in cooperation with the public works department, is planting more trees than are being removed, city forester Dan Coy said.

This spring, about 300 trees will be planted, and more will be added this fall. On top of that, several hundred more will be added as a result of public works projects, Coy said.

“As we get out of the emerald ash borer damage, we’re going to focus more on tree planting and young tree development,” he said.

“We’ll gladly move away from tree removal because we have to start rebuilding the city’s canopy,” he said.

But for now, much of the city’s focus remains on the diseased trees, Coy said.

He said he believes the community is in the middle of the peak devastation.

Coy said the removal of trees at American Park probably marks the biggest mass effort this year.

Last year, a similar number of ash trees were removed from McNaughton and Island parks, Coy said.

“The rest of the city parks have some ash trees, but they did not have the population density that those three had,” he said.

As the city continues to attack the problem on public property, one unchecked area continues to be private property, where decisions are left up to homeowners.

Next year, the prominence of the disease may well shift to backyards.

“What we’re going to see now is, there’s going to be a lot of standing dead ash trees in our citizens’ backyards simply because they don’t know,” Coy said.

Those circumstances, he said, are “unfortunately common.”

Coy said it is better to take action at a point where there is no hope the tree can be saved. Waiting until the tree is dead isn’t a good idea.

“It’s always safer to take down trees before they die, and it’s especially important with ash trees because they become very brittle.”

In Fort Wayne, the emerald ash borer has led to the death and removal of thousands of city-owned ash trees, often leaving only stumps. Thousands more privately owned trees have been cut down or stand skeletonized.

Historically, ash trees have been widely planted in Elkhart because they are strong, tolerant to pollution and grow quickly; because of the disease, the city is losing many of its trees, Mayor Dick Moore said in a news release.

“Elkhart is committed to helping to create a vibrant urban forest to provide our citizens with cleaner air, lower utility bills, safer neighborhoods, a lower cost of living and higher property values,” Moore said.