Onalaska tries to decide fate of ash trees

Onalaska is asking its residents how they want to deal with an invasive tree-killing pest. The emerald ash borer was discovered inside city limits in December. Onalaska has 17,000 ash trees on public property throughout the city. There are hundreds more on private property.

Wayne Nagy has lived at his Onalaska home for about 15 years and he has a large ash tree in his front yard that he would be disappointed to lose.

“It’d be huge. It’s our only tree in the yard here and obviously it’s probably one of the originals in this addition,” Nagy said.

The tree is on Nagy’s private property, but the trees in the boulevards are public property and currently the city is working with a consultant to design a plan to deal with the EAB in the ash trees.

“She is going to recommend some different strategies on either treating some trees, removing them, coming up with a short list of what is the best option for the city to manage all of our ash trees,” said Katie Meyer, Planning and Zoning inspector for Onalaska.

While the city decides on a plan, citizens are invited to deal with their own trees. Officials say they have a few options.

“They can wait for the tree to completely die, they can use an insecticide treatment, they can choose to cut down the tree immediately and then replant,” Meyer said.

Meyer says if you decide to cut down the tree, you are allowed to burn it right away, but the decision to cut down a tree is a decision Nagy hopes he doesn’t have to make.

“It’s been a beautiful shade tree for us and we’d really miss it,” Nagy said.

The city of Onalaska wants to remind residents that trees in the boulevard are the city’s property. No one is allowed to cut down those trees besides city employees. The city is expected to finalize its plan this spring.