Having previously spurned a potential federal grant because of land-management conditions attached to it, Sylvania City Council last week adopted a $288,600 plan for removing dead ash trees from Harroun Park and then reforesting the site over four years.
How much of it actually will be done remains to be seen; the program will depend on annual city budget appropriations for funding unless officials find a new source of grant money.
There is still a chance for state grants, "but I'm not sure how strong a possibility that is" because the Ohio Department of Natural Resources program involved is designed for trees along streets, not in parks, Pat O'Brien, the city's superintendent of parks and forestry, told council's parks and forestry committee during a meeting that preceded the full council's vote.
Another "fairly expensive question mark," Mr. O'Brien said, is whether $75,400 budgeted for fences to protect young trees from browsing or rubbing by deer will truly be needed.
A test plot of seedlings has been planted in the park to see what happens when winter arrives and deer begin foraging for food, he said.
"We're going to try [deer] repellent with the seedlings, but we won't know until winter passes if that works," Mr. O'Brien said.
Councilman Doug Haynam questioned the cost for planting new trees, saying the park seemed to him to be replacing the dead ashes without any help.
"I've walked through that park, and there seems to be a lot growing in it," he said, adding later, "I didn't get the impression it was devastated" by the ashes' demise.
Mr. O'Brien responded that the replanting program would be designed to re-establish native tree species in the park and control invasive plants, like honeysuckles and buckthorn, that have spread into Harroun over the years but will not grow tall enough to create the sort of leafy canopy the ashes once provided.
"These are very aggressive competitors, and they block out the things you would normally see in a woods," the forester said. Species included in the proposed planting campaign include two types of buckeyes, various oaks, and hackberry.
Without those trees, Mr. O'Brien said, "you will not have a canopy, other than what is already there." And some of the greenery in the park is wild grapevines climbing the dead ash trees, he noted. The forestry superintendent has estimated that 1,000 to 1,500 trees in the park have succumbed to the emerald ash borer.
Several council members said they could not imagine not replacing Harroun's dead trees, because the park is a community centerpiece.
"It's not like this is out on the edge of town somewhere. This is in the middle of our city," Katie Cappellini said.
"Our residents regard Harroun Park as a treasure," Mark Luetke said. "I'm not willing, for the sake of waiting for a grant, to let this go and have a deforested space. I hope that my granddaughter could get married there in 20 years and have a canopy of trees."
Mr. O'Brien estimated it would take that long for seedling and sapling trees to grow to provide that shade. Without a leafy canopy above, he said, grapevines, poison ivy, and other low-level and generally unwanted plants will thrive.
Councilman Mike Brown took exception to the fence budget, saying that such money would be better spent at nurseries buying bigger trees that wouldn't be as vulnerable to deer damage.
"I just have a problem with spending $80,000 on fences," Mr. Brown said.
Mr. O'Brien said the trees will need to be 10 to 15 feet tall before deer browsing is no longer a threat to their survival.
Council approved the plan unanimously, but Mr. Haynam said he is not yet prepared to support reforestation funding next year.
The first year's budget includes $30,000 for dead-tree removal, but in 2011 the plan's price tag climbs to $86,600, including $50,000 for logging, $1,800 for site preparation, and $17,400 apiece for fences and plants.
"We can say this is the plan, but when we get to the budget next year, I'm going to have a lot of the same questions," he said.
Mr. O'Brien said the seedling test plot should provide needed information.
"There are a lot of things I don't have answers for, that maybe next spring I'll have answers for," he said.
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