Emerald Ash Borer forces Onalaska to remove ash trees from boulevards

City officials will remove about 1,300 trees from city boulevards

The emerald ash borer continues to make its presence known in La Crosse County, but city officials aren’t giving up on the fight.

The Emerald Ash Borer has been detected in 13 states and is responsible for the death of tens of millions of ash trees across the U.S. Ever since the invasive beetle showed up in La Crosse County about eight years ago; local officials have been trying to figure out what to do with the infected trees.

There are only two main ways to stop the invasive beetle. One is to try to treat the trees with a chemical that will kill the emerald ash borer. The other is to completely remove the ash tree and replace it with a new type of tree.

Either way it is going to cost money, but it’s a fight city officials can’t afford to lose.

When you drive down Main Street in Onalaska, it’s hard not to notice all of the huge ash trees along the boulevard.

“They provide a lot of shade, they help with storm water, rainfalls limiting the impact of rain on there, so they do serve a very good purpose,” said Kevin Schubert, assistant city engineer with the city of Onalaska.

That’s why it’s so difficult to imagine the street without them.

“There are about roughly 1,300 trees in the boulevards,” said Schubert.

Over the next couple of years, the city plans to take down all 1,300 trees because of the emerald ash borer.

“The city is making preparations to try to remove them later this fall and through the winter,” said Schubert.

It’s a decision city council members didn’t make lightly. After hiring a consultant to take a look at all the ash trees along Onalaska’s boulevard, only about 10 percent of them are healthy enough to be treated.

“The treatment doesn’t guarantee that the tree will live and it’s an ongoing cost you have to treat the tree every two years,” said Schubert. “We are going to remove all of them; we are not going to try to treat the 10 percent.”

The city of Onalaska seems to be following in the same footsteps as the city of La Crosse, who has been in the process of removing infected ash trees all year.

“We’ve probably removed right about 2,000 ash trees,” said Cinthia Shireman, parks and forestry coordinator for the city of La Crosse.

However, due to Mother Nature, that process has been halted.

“We are in the process still of taking care of storm damage trees so removals for ash trees has kind of slowed down a bit, unless they’ve been storm damaged, but we are hoping to pick back up the removals again this fall,” said Shireman.

It’s going to be a long process and the trees won’t come down overnight, but Onalaska city officials are hoping to get started sooner, rather than later.

“Once you identify the tree has the disease it is easy to take it early on in the disease stage, than to let it completely die because then the tree is very brittle and makes it difficult to clean up,” said Schubert.

Although both cities have opted to get rid of the infected ash trees in the boulevards, they are giving residents the option to treat the trees themselves but it is at their own expense.

As soon as Onalaska officials decide when to start taking down the trees, residents will get a letter telling them what they have to do in order to get the OK to treat the tree themselves.

If you would like to know more about the emerald ash borer or how to treat an ash tree, head the city of La Crosse’s website or the city of Onalaska’s website for more information.