In recent weeks, you may have noticed major changes to the landscape of some of our neighborhood parks. Many ash trees are being cut down due to emerald ash borer infestation. Some of the trees are quite large, 20"-40" trunk diameter. The largest of them are over 100 years old and have provided shade to several generations of park visitors and shelter to many more generations of wildlife.
The decision to remove these trees was not made lightly by park district forestry. Many of the trees were already dead or nearly so, while others have been dying for some time, dropping rotting branches and creating a hazard. In some parks, as many as 30-40% of the trees are ash trees that have been slowly compromised by the emerald ash borer. The ash is one of our largest native tree species, providing sustenance to many native wildlife species, so this is a very significant loss to our urban ecosystem.
Work was recently completed in Crescent Park and will also be done in Ridge Park, Barnard Park and others in the 19th ward. Ada Park and West Pullman Park in the 34th ward will also lose a significant number of mature ash trees.
New trees of other species will be planted, but they will take many years to reach mature size. They will not reach maturity in most of our lifetimes. We may see similar changes on many of our streets in the coming years. We have already lost hundreds of ash trees in Dan Ryan Woods and in many other forest preserves.
I hope that a treatment can be found that will be more effective than the injections that are extending the lives of ash trees that haven't yet been too extensively damaged. More importantly, I hope such a treatment will be developed before the ash tree becomes extinct.
Perhaps a new variety of ash that is resistant to emerald ash borer will be developed, as was done with the elm tree after it nearly disappeared due to Dutch elm disease. Until that happens, we will continue to witness the disappearance of grand old ash trees from our parks and streets.