This spring, residents will start noticing fewer trees when running, having a picnic or playing in Province Park.
Nearly 150 trees need to be removed from Province Park and Greenlawn Cemetery during the next few months, said Franklin Parks and Recreation Director Chip Orner. About 90 percent of the dead trees have been killed by emerald ash borers, a pest that digs into and lives inside ash trees, Orner said. The trees are mostly mature trees, with some that scale 70 feet tall, Orner said.
Last fall, Greenwood Parks and Recreation had to cut down about 80 percent to 90 percent of Westside Parks’ forestry due to emerald ash borers.
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The pests are not native to North America, so the bugs have no natural enemies in Indiana, said Purdue extension agriculture and natural resource educator Sarah Hanson. Emerald ash borers were first recorded in North America around 2002 but have been a bigger problem for ash trees in Indiana in recent years, she said.
Earlier this year, Orner asked the Franklin City Council for $55,000 to remove some dead trees in Province Park and the cemetery that were most at risk of falling down near playground equipment, picnic tables, trails and the road, Orner said.
Then he started doing an inventory. Orner counted the dozens of dead trees in Province Park and the cemetery and brought the alarming number to city council’s attention. Orner plans on counting the number of dead trees in all of the parks’ properties, but for now, Province Park and the cemetery are the two biggest concerns, he said.
City council members suggested that all 147 trees be torn down at once, to get rid of the dead foliage, they said. Additional money could be taken from the city parks’ fund in order to cover the cost of removing additional trees, council member Steve Barnett said.
But in order to hire a company to do that much work, the city would have to bid the project out and wait another month or two before trees could be torn down. Orner does not want to wait to remove the dead trees because they have the potential to hurt someone or block a trail or road, he said.
“It’s going to be difficult to find a contractor that’s going to want to tackle 147-plus trees,” Mayor Joe McGuinness said. “That’s going to dominate the first two-three months of their season, I would guess.”
Residents would notice the loss of that many trees at once, Orner said.
“Some of these trees are clustered in twelves at a time in picnic areas,” Orner said. “When I go shave 12 trees off, you’re going to notice that, trust me. It’s going to be very noticeable.”
The cost of removing all 147 trees could be $300,000. On average, removing one tree costs approximately $2,000. Last year, the parks department was forced to remove one live tree for $3,300 after it fell in the cemetery, Orner said.
“I just don’t know if we’ll be able to invest $300,000 in this right now,” Orner said. “This has been an ongoing issue with us for years, but I probably have to be a realist about it.”
Council member Joe Ault suggested the city hire part-time tree experts and rent equipment in order to tear down the trees without having to bring in an outside company. That could possibly save the city money and allow more trees to be removed, he said.
“If we’ve got this many, I can’t help but feel that we could hire some part-time tree experts, rent equipment and do it ourselves much cheaper,” Ault said. “I mean, we’re talking a forest-worth of trees.”
While waiting for the dead trees to come down, Orner has already started planting 30 trees in Province Park. The trees, which are not ash trees, were donated by a Johnson County resident who purchased a home on a tree farm, Orner said.
For four years, the resident has provided trees for the parks department to use, as long as the parks department covers the cost of digging up and transporting the trees, he said.
The trees are about five to seven years old, so they are taller and larger trees that can fill in more area than saplings can, Orner said. The trees could be sold for about $600 to $800 a piece, but since the resident is donating the trees, the total cost for digging and transportation averages about $70 per tree, he said.