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Issue with emerald ash borer leads to removal of trees at Hoffer Park

By Dan Miller

danmiller@pressandjournal.com

717-944-4628
Posted 2/13/18

 

Hoffer Park in Middletown has fewer large ash trees now, thanks, unfortunately, to being afflicted with the emerald ash borer.

Eight or nine ash trees in Hoffer Park have been taken down …

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Issue with emerald ash borer leads to removal of trees at Hoffer Park

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Hoffer Park in Middletown has fewer large ash trees now, thanks, unfortunately, to being afflicted with the emerald ash borer.

Eight or nine ash trees in Hoffer Park have been taken down in recent days, borough Public Works Director Greg Wilsbach told council Jan. 23.

“As much as we hate to do it these trees were dead or dying” and were becoming a public safety hazard, Wilsbach said. “One branch falling at the wrong time can have a bad impact.”

Wilsbach will use borough funds to buy new trees to replace the other ash trees that have come down. He will be replacing most of them with oaks, but also with some maples.

“You don’t want all one tree” in the park, he said. “You want big trees that stand the test of time, and oaks are definitely one of them.”

All ash trees in the borough eventually will have to be cut down, probably sooner rather than later, because of the emerald ash borer.

“You’re probably not going to have an ash tree in the state within the next three years,” Wilsbach said. He knows of several other ash trees in borough-owned property that will have to come down.

The borough is responsible for any diseased or dying ash trees in the public right of way, in addition to handling complaints that arise from ash trees or other diseased trees that are on private property but extend into the public space.

The emerald ash borer is an invasive highly destructive wood-boring insect that attacks ash trees, according to Penn State University’s Department of Entomology Cooperative Extension program.

The emerald ash borer has killed more than 40 million ash trees in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Maryland and Texas, and was detected in Pennsylvania for the first time in 2007. The borer was first detected in Dauphin County in 2013 and had been detected in 62 counties in Pennsylvania as of September 2016, according to the extension office.

The borer is believed to have arrived in North America on material from China.

The borer was not known to exist on this continent before June 2002.

Wilsbach said that Ed Shull, a Middletown resident whose tree-servicing company has a contract with the borough, is donating two oak trees to be planted in Hoffer Park to replace some of the ash trees that have been cut down.

Assistance from others may also be on the way.

“Let me know what we can do to help,” Solicitor Adam Santucci of McNees Wallace & Nurick told Wilsbach during the Jan. 23 meeting.

“Trees definitely make a park,” Wilsbach said, adding that even with the ash trees gone Hoffer Park still has a good mix of different trees standing. Some of the oaks in Hoffer Park are at least 200 years old, he estimated.

Besides the ash trees, two other trees also had to be cut down recently in Hoffer Park, Wilsbach said. One was an oak and one was a maple. Both had been hit by lightening and had limbs busted off and were rotting in the center, he told the Press & Journal after the council meeting.

“We evaluate all the trees to make sure they are safe” in all borough parks, he added.

For example, the department recently had a dead oak tree taken down in Oak Hill Park. A diseased maple tree was cut down in the small park next to the Municipal Building on West Emaus Street.