IRVING PARK — Ash trees in the Northwest Side could die by the end of the year if they are not retreated against emerald ash borer infestations, and a local community group is trying to rally residents to help.
In 2013, the city invested $2.6 million to conduct basic tree trimming and maintenance services, which included inoculating ash trees against the invasive beetle for the first time.
The city stopped treating trees last year, leaving the the city’s ash trees vulnerable once the most recent treatment wears off.
The North River Commission wants neighbors to help identify vulnerable ash trees on the Northwest Side and donate to a Save Your Ash fund to help neighborhood groups cover the cost of continuing treatments against the beetle.
The beetle feeds on ash trees. It first appeared in the United States in 2002 in Michigan and has spread, killing more than 30 million trees in the northeastern United States and Canada.
“We’re in the middle of our last-ditch effort to save these trees,” said John Friedmann, president of the North River Commission.
The NRC has worked with neighborhood groups like the Greater Independence Park Neighborhood Association, Horner Park Neighbors and Albany Park Neighbor to identify which ash trees are at risk and get them treated.
The current stock of ash trees can be identified by metal tags the city installed on their trunks after they were treated. The treatment is good for three to four years, Friedmann said.
Neighbors have posted information cards on these trees, explaining that without further treatment the tree will die and asking neighbors to coordinate funding to save these trees.
Members of Greater Independence Park Neighborhood Association have identified 48 trees near Independence Park that need the protective treatment.
In a flyer circulated to neighbors, members of the group said they’ve obtained a rate to treat the trees at a discount and need to begin treatment by Sept. 1.
“It just seems easier to save the trees we have now as opposed to having to pay for the removal and replacement of these ash trees and then have to wait for the benefits mature trees give our neighborhood,” said Misha Mann, president of The Residents of Irving Park neighborhood group.
Mann said the effort has renewed urgency after the city lost 7,300 trees during last week’s intense storm.
“Those winds showed neighbors what losing so many trees can look like. It’s devastating what can happen due to the weather, but these infestations are preventable and we can protect our trees,” Mann said.
When the city of Chicago began treating trees in 2013, there were 94,000 ash trees on Chicago’s parkways. About 52,000 remain.
“The trees we’ve identified will have their treatment wear off by the end of the year. If they don’t get injected before then, they will likely die,” Friedmann said.
For more information on how you can help, go to the Save Your Ash website.
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