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Upper Arlington Officials Brace for Ash Borer

Upper Arlington officials are taking a preemptive strike against the Emerald Ash Borer. The insect has killed more than 15 million Ash trees in parts of Michigan, Indiana and northwest Ohio. And the infestations keep spreading. Experts believe the only way to stop it is to cut all ash trees within a half mile of a known infestation. While the beetle has made its way to Delaware County and Easton, that's the closest it has come to central Ohio. But the Upper Arlington Tree Commission still believes the insect is a threat to its community. Commission chairperson, Debra Marsh.

"The Emerald Ash Borer, it has not yet been found in Upper Arlington, but at this point the federal and state government are no longer taking responsibility for eradicating it and so we're faced with, as a municipality deciding, how to deal with this," Marsh said.

Upper Arlington Parks and Forest Superintendent Steve Cothrel said the tree commission plans to deal with the threat of the beetle is to remove street Ash trees first. "We're not trying to get to zero Ashes, we're just trying to get it to a manageable level before the Ash borer arrives," Cothrel said.

About 15,000 trees line Upper Arlington's streets, and about 700 of them are Ashes. Marsh said street trees that are already old and diseased will be the first to go. And the plan is to cut them down over a ten year period.

About five local residents attended Tuesday's tree commission meeting. Some were in agreement with the proposal, while others felt cutting down now the trees is not the answer. Resident Bob Maynard, who has Ash trees in his yard, said he believes the Ash borer insect will eventually make its way to Upper Arlington, but thinks the plan is hasty.

"I think it is way premature to commit to a ten year program in which hundreds of trees, maybe thousands of trees are going to be removed whether they're sick, or whether they're infested or not. I think it's a huge commitment and it's the sort of city council itself and the population of Upper Arlington should focus on and have some input in it before it's launched," Maynard said.

But resident Susan Downhower, who has several Ash trees of her own, disagreed.

"I don't think it's premature that they're considering this issue at all because the Ash borer does kill trees," Downhower said.

Michigan has lost millions of Ash trees to the beetle. The borer was first discovered near Detroit and spread to other parts of the state including Pittsfield Charter Township located just south of Ann Arbor in Washtenaw County. Pittsfield Charter Township Deputy Clerk Jan Bendor said her community has lost every one of its Ash trees. And Bendor believes cutting down the Ash trees before the beetle arrives to an area in not the answer. Instead, she said, more attention should be placed on people.

"All the outbreaks of the borer in northern Michigan, in Ohio and Indiana have been caused by human beings carelessly transporting the wood. And that's where we ought to be focusing the attention," Bendor said.

The Upper Arlington Commission said if and when the Emerald Ash Borer makes its way to the area, it could begin removal of the trees on private property and at local parks. The commission also will be recommending to the city council stiffer penalties for residents who do not remove the Ash trees if that time comes.