LA CROSSE, Wis. -

One out of five trees in La Crosse is an ash tree.

In the next two years or so, the city may end up cutting most of them down, thanks to a tiny green beetle called the emerald ash borer.

That's leaving people who have an ash tree in front of their property with a decision to make: should they treat their tree or cut it down?

La Crosse resident Cheri Schuyler has two of the city's 4,800 boulevard ash trees in front of her house. She said it would be sad to see them go.

"Just in this half a block, we've got five trees here. That's going to be a big change to the landscape here,” said Schuyler. “I don't know how long we'll be in this house, how long it'll take for the trees that we plant to grow into the size that we have now. So it would be sad to see them come down."

But Amunson said even if an ash tree in the area looks healthy now, it's only a matter of time before the emerald ash borer turns it into dinner.

"You must accept the fact that the tree is not going to be healthy in seven years. It's going to be dead," said Amunson.

The City Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department has not yet presented a formal plan for the city's ash trees to the Park Board or Common Council.

But Amunson said he plans on recommending the city cut down all its ash trees before the infestation gets worse, starting with Pettibone Park, Myrick Park and Forest Hills Golf Course this winter and moving on to the boulevard trees lining our streets next year.

"It's a shock. It's a big change. In a street, in your boulevard, in your neighborhood, it's going to look entirely different," said Amunson.

But he said if a person has a city-owned boulevard tree in front of their property that they don't want to see chopped down, the property owner can choose to treat it instead -- at their own expense.

As president of Nature's Way Arborist Services LLC, treating ash trees to prevent EAB infestation is what John Fisher does full time.

He predicts the pest population is going to drop off significantly in the next few years once those little green bugs run out of food.

"Once it eats its way out of all the ashes, population's going to crash. The only thing that's going to be out there in five years is the trees that have been treated," said Fisher.

The chemical injection his business uses lasts for two years and costs about $150-$200.

But Schuyler said she'd rather have the city just take down the boulevard ashes in front of her home than try to treat them.

"It may do the job and I may be able to keep my trees, but if it doesn't and it prolongs the city to the exposure of the borer, then I don't know that it's worth it," said Schuyler.

Amunson said it would take a year or two to replace the ash trees after they come down.

Cutting down the more than 5,000 ash trees in the city would cost about $2 million.

Amunson said there are several companies interested in cutting down the healthy trees for lumber at their own expense.