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Schiller Park Works To Save Its Ash Trees

Within a couple of weeks, as many as 29 Ash Trees in one of Columbus' oldest city parks will be treated with insecticide. The treatment is part of an effort to spare the trees from the invasive insect the Emerald Ash Borer. The bug was first detected about a decade ago in lower Michigan and has already killed millions of Ash trees in Ohio and 14 other states. WOSU's Tom Borgerding reports on efforts at Schiller Park to preserve trees that help give the park its character. Lindy Michael is among thousands who frequently use the walkways and paths that criss-cross the 23 acre park on the southern edge of German Village. "Well, about a year ago I was walking around the park and, being a tree-hugger, saw how many Ash trees there are." She counted more than two dozen Ash trees. Some that pre-date the Civil War. "And they're just incredible as you can see. This tree is just absolutely huge. It's a white ash . And the value for wildlife, the value for people, the shade. We would have to cut down, if the Emerald Ash Borer really devastates our trees, 28 to 29 trees." Michael says the Ash Borer is close. She's noticed an infestation as near as Children's Hospital on the northeastern edge of German Village. Schiller Park is situated on the opposite end. If the Emerald Ash Borer moves into the park. The Ash trees would likely be doomed. And cutting down the old growth Ash would permanently change the light patterns and appearance of Schiller Park. Julie Verhoff-Pipes echoes Michael as she stops during her morning jog. "Oh, if these trees go its going to be, it'll be really sad because they're gorgeous. They're huge, they're old. They've been here for years. And, this park has been here for years." Verhoff-Pipes says she uses Schiller Park nearly everyday and enjoys what she calls 'happy hour' during warmer months. "I mean when you come here at 'happy hour,' say around 4 to 6 p.m. You see it packed with people and all of our dogs. And everyone's catching up on the day's work. In the summer you've got Shakespeare in the park. You'll also see those that have Golden Retrievers will have their dogs in the ponds." Against that backdrop of neighborhood buzz, Lindy Michael helped lead fund-raising efforts to hire Davey Tree Company to treat the 28 or 29 Ash trees against the Emerald Ash Borer. With the help of the German Village Society and the Community Recreation Commission and donations from as far away as Tennessee and Virginia, the group raised more than $10,000. This year's treatment will cost more than $5,200 and Michael says it will have to be repeated every two years. Davey Tree employee Jake Burns explains why the Emerald Ash Borer is such a threat to places like Schiller Park where the Ash Trees appear to be healthy and thriving. "An Emerald Ash Borer doesn't care whether its stressed or completely healthy tree, they'll attack it and kill it. So that's the reason its so devastating is because it doesn't go to stressed trees. Healthy trees, it will attack and kill them too." Burns says there's no guarantee that insecticide treatment is fully effective. But, he says early results indicate 90 percent of Ash trees in a park or landscape can be saved if they're treated in time. Burns says in other parts of Central Ohio its already too late. "Up in the City of Delaware, up in Powell and Dublin area I've seen trees , big trees where they haven't been taken care of, all the bark's fallen off of them. They're dead. So its pretty devastating." Says Burns. "Well that's not what I want to do, I want to protect them" Says Lindy Michael. So, by early May, Lindy Michael says tree workers will begin to inject an insecticide into the bark of Schiller Park's Ash trees in a bid to save them from what Ohio State University researcher Dan Herms calls the most devastating pest foresters and arborists have ever seen. "It clearly has the potential to essentially eliminate Ash from eastern North America." Tom Borgerding WOSU News