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Published: 4/15/2005

Removal of 20,000 trees will close down Pearson

BY TOM HENRY
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Leonard Carl stops his work to sharpen his chain saw during removal of a 53-year-old green ash at Pearson Metropark. Leonard Carl stops his work to sharpen his chain saw during removal of a 53-year-old green ash at Pearson Metropark.
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A massive tree-cutting operation under way at Pearson Metropark in Oregon to halt the spread of the emerald ash borer will be so extensive that officials announced yesterday the park will close April 25 for more than two months.

Some 20,000 ash trees - nearly one of every three trees at Pearson - will be cut down. They have been marked for removal by the Ohio Department of Agriculture as part of a multistate effort to thwart the deadly metallic green pest.

The borer, a thumbnail-sized beetle from Asia, feeds exclusively on ash trees. It suffocates them by burrowing beneath the bark of those trees and robbing them of their nutrients. The beetle is believed to have been accidentally shipped to North America via wooden shipping crates a few years ago. It was first identified in a western Detroit suburb in 2002

John Jaeger, Metroparks natural resources chief, said yesterday that he and other officials erred by stating in recent interviews that only 2,000 ash trees would be removed from the park.

That figure represents only a fraction of the total that will be removed - the number of mature trees that are big enough to salvage hardwood from, Mr. Jaeger explained. Some of Pearson's biggest ash trees are 80 to 100 years old and up to 80 feet tall.

Melissa Brewer, state agriculture department spokesman, said about two-thirds of the estimated 20,000 trees marked for removal at Pearson are saplings that are two inches or less in diameter.

No matter what the total, Pearson's aesthetics will be drastically altered, as will the amount of shade this summer. Mr. Jaeger also said yesterday that officials are working on a plan to send Pearson's biggest ash trees to a southern Michigan sawmill so that the inner hardwood can be salvaged as lumber. A sawmill typically cuts off the outer inch of wood from the tree. Emerald ash borers don't usually penetrate deeper than a half inch.

State and federal officials would need to authorize the transfer across the Ohio-Michigan line. There are severe penalties on the interstate movement of contaminated ash wood. Metroparks officials hope to get a waiver by securing logs beneath covered trucks, Mr. Jaeger said.

Another option would be grinding trees down to a fine mulch and sending the mulch off to a wood-burning power plant, he said.

The timing of the tree-cutting operation will be rough on area residents who had planned family picnics at Pearson for the Memorial Day weekend. It also will be rough on several species of birds that migrate through the region between now and then, often using Pearson for habitat, he said.

In addition, Pearson ash trees will be coming down on Arbor Day - a national day in which Americans promote the value of conserving trees and encourage each other to plant more. Most states celebrate Arbor Day on April 29 this year.

"It's a sad irony, for sure," Mr. Jaeger said.

Another 20,000 ash trees are slated for removal from the Oak Openings Preserve Metropark in western Lucas County. But the latter park is more than 10 times larger than the Pearson site, larger than all other metroparks combined. Plus, it has a more diversified forestry, officials have said.

Thousands of other ash trees are coming down statewide, in addition to millions that have come down or are being cut in Michigan, Indiana, and Ontario.

Some 50,000 trees will be removed in the vicinity of North Baltimore, Ohio, and Van Buren, Ohio. Thousands more have come down or will be cut in near Toledo Express Airport, the Maumee State Forest, the north side of Columbus, and in the vicinity of Hicksville and Pioneer, both in Ohio.

Contact Tom Henry at:

thenry@theblade.com

or 419-724-6079.



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