By Karen Kennedy
It’s been 10 years since the emerald ash borer first came onto the radar of foresters. They were first discovered in the U.S. in Detroit in 2002. They had made it to northwest Indiana around 2004, and by 2006, they had infiltrated our city’s landscape.
“Ash trees were a huge part of Carmel’s city street program and private development in the early 2000’s,” said Mike Hollibaugh, Carmel Community Services Director. “It’s truly a disaster. We are still getting calls from homeowners, asking what they can do about them. But once a tree has been infected, there’s nothing you can do but cut it down. Even the most established and mature elm trees are in severe decline or already dead. The city has had to spend a lot of money removing the affected trees from municipal land.”
Hollibaugh likens the emerald ash borer disaster to the scourge of Dutch Elm disease back in the 1960s, and notes that ash trees were most often the replacement tree of choice when the elms died. So history repeated itself.
Preventing future forestry disasters
“We’ve learned that diversity in planting is the key,” Hollibaugh said. Now, Daren Mindham, Carmel’s urban forester, maintains a spreadsheet of the planting and inventories of trees, and makes sure that the city doesn’t plant more than 10 to 15 percent of any one kind of tree.
The city has become more involved in overseeing what private developers and home owners are planting as well.
“We micro-manage in a way that we never did before, to ensure good species diversity and make sure this kind of thing never happens again,” Hollibaugh said.
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