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Pest responsible for latest clearance of trees in downtown Elmira

The emerald ash borer wins again. The trees, on the other hand …

Downtown Elmira bid adieu to 32 ash trees this week as the township hired All Green Tree to remove the ruined trees. The emerald ash borer wrecks havoc on ash trees, giving it its rightful title, a pest.

Richard Sigurdson, Woolwich township manager of engineering, said it was inevitable.

“I think we removed a few trees last year. And then first thing this spring there were a few more that were not in good shape. Over the course of the summer a few more have deteriorated,” Sigurdson said.

Trees were removed on Arthur Street from William to Park, and on Church Street from Memorial to Maple. Originally six ash trees were supposed to remain standing in the downtown, but on Wednesday they made the decision to remove them too, due to deterioration.

This is costing the township roughly $6,000, he said.

All 32 ash trees were removed in downtown Elmira this week due to destruction from the infamous pest, the emerald ash borer.[Whitney Neilson / The Observer]
All 32 ash trees were removed in downtown Elmira this week due to destruction from the infamous pest, the emerald ash borer. [Whitney Neilson / The Observer]
The ash trees were planted in the 1990s when the roads were rebuilt. Sigurdson said the ash tree was selected as part of the streetscape plan. But as in most places across North America, the trees haven’t fared well, being largely wiped out by the emerald ash borer.

“I think at some point we want to revisit the idea of putting new trees in, however we don’t have that sorted out yet, what types of species and also the construction of that tree and for the root system. And for right now all we’re going to do is remove the trees and grind the stump, put in some granular and pour concrete in that void for now to get rid of any sort of trip hazard,” Sugurdson said.

They also plan to review the decorative lighting on both streets. He says they want to ensure the below grade wiring is still in good shape, and decide if they should be converting to something more modern in the near future. They’ll have to decide on that before they come up with a definitive plan on the trees because it would require some excavation.

“Part of the challenge with the downtown trees is I think what’s happening in cities right now is they’re putting in these Silva Cells and they’re very expensive, in the neighborhood of $15,000 each expensive. Of course right now we don’t have anything like that at all, but that seems to be the current standard in an urban area. So perhaps there’s something in between a compromised design standard to plant trees in an urban area. That’s something we need to research further.”

Silva Cells are suspended pavement systems which allow for tree growth and stormwater management, due to their ability to hold lots of soil and support traffic.

It’s unclear when the downtown’s lost trees will be replaced with new greenery.

“I’m hopeful over the course of the next year we’ll have a better plan of what a good design standard is and how much it would cost to plant the vegetation in the downtown again,” Sigurdson said.

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