First EAB informational meeting bolstered hopes for saving ash trees

Published 8:34 pm Tuesday, April 9, 2024

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Continuing its push to confront the emerald ash borer in Austin, the Parks, Recreation & Forestry Department held its first informational meeting Tuesday night in an effort to get treatment options into the hands of property owners.

That information is based on a “treat first” approach the department hopes people will take up in order to mitigate the loss of ash trees in Austin due to the community infestation.

Just over 40 people were in attendance Tuesday night, exceeding expectations and holding up hopes that people will at least consider saving the trees on private property.

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“It shows people want to learn. People want to do the right thing,” said Parks and Recreation Director Jason Sehon following the meeting. “The more trees residents treat the better the community will look and feel I believe.”

It’s a daunting task, however. On city property alone there are over roughly 2,000 ash trees and when combined with trees on private property there are nearly 5,000 ash trees total in the community.

Making the situation more dire is the belief that if treatment doesn’t start on some trees this year, then next year may be too late.

“Our biggest goal now is, let’s save as many ash trees as we can,” Sehon said during his introduction.

The city’s efforts have been bolstered with a $40,000 grant from the Hormel Foundation with a required match of $40,000 from the city. That money will go toward treating the trees the city can this year. 

As of Tuesday, there were just over 300 trees identified as treatable by members of the relatively new forestry team that includes Sehon, Parks and Forestry Supervisor Randy Hoffner, Jay C. Hormel Nature Center Director Luke Reese and Kris Hahn and Jenna Kaiser.

The goal, Sehon said Tuesday night, was to hopefully reach 600 treatable trees this year.

However, landowners won’t have access to the same resources, regardless if they choose to treat or take down the tree.

At the same time, though, Sehon stressed to those in attendance that it doesn’t mean the property owners are being forgotten. As the city begins to take in bids, he said that they will ask whoever is chosen to try and pass on that same savings to the property owners.

And if property owners choose to take down the trees, then Sehon said they are looking at finding ways to get replacement trees in their hands to try and maintain tree levels in Austin.

While Tuesday night’s meeting was the first, it won’t be the last Sehon said, with plans to hold more meetings in different parts of the community in order to reach more people.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if we had one planned in the next couple weeks,” he said.

To keep track of the most up-to-date information on EAB efforts in Austin, people are invited to visit the department’s Facebook page where updates will be posted regularly.